Kevin Lind enjoying opportunity as freshman to play in Frozen Four

By DJ Powers
Photo: Kevin Lind is among many of the talented freshman players at Notre Dame this season. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

Kevin Lind (ANA) is part of a very talented and very youthful Notre Dame blue line this season. He has played in 31 games to date, posting 11 points (one goal, ten assists). Hockey’s Future caught up with Lind after practice on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.

Hockey’s Future: What is like being here at the Frozen Four as a freshman?

Kevin Lind: It’s unbelievable. There are only three guys on our team that are here for a second time, so an opportunity like this doesn’t come along very often. A lot of college guys never get to experience something like this, so I’m trying to embrace it and have a lot of fun. Who knows? I may never get back here again, so I’m just trying to take it all in and it’s been a lot of fun so far.

HF: Has having three players that have been here (in the Frozen Four) before made it easier for you and the other freshmen in terms of knowing what to expect and in handling what could be an overwhelming situation?

KL: Absolutely. We only have five seniors on our team and three of them played in the Frozen Four before (in 2008), so we’ve been leaning on them a lot this year. They’ve done a great job in teaching us freshmen how it is, how to play here in the Frozen Four and just keeping all of us grounded. At the beginning of the year, we weren’t picked to finish any higher than fifth in the CCHA and yet here we are. I think the seniors deserve most of the credit for the job that they’ve done all season long and having their experience here has really been a big help. Coach Jackson has also done a great job with us (freshmen) too. He’s been here before and really keeps us focused on the task at hand.

HF: What have been some of the things that Coach Jackson has taught you that has made you a better player?

KL: I think just the same things that he was telling me when I was in juniors, which are patience with the puck and having real good defensive positioning. One thing that he really stresses to me is taking care of the defensive side of the puck. He’s told me to finish my checks but not allow it to take me completely away from my defensive responsibilities in front of the net or get beat in the corners. So his record speaks for itself and he knows what he’s doing. He’s coached a lot of great players, so anything that he’s saying to me, I always try to remember to do.

HF: What one area do you feel that you have made the greatest improvement in and what one area has been a continuing work in progress for you?

KL: I think my patience with the puck has been an area where I’ve really improved because last year in juniors, I tended to throw the puck away sometimes or rush the puck too much. Coach Jackson has really taught me to calm down, making sure that I have my head on a swivel and that I’m making good, smart plays. He tells me that I don’t always have to rush the puck. I think for any player the big thing is confidence. Sometimes things don’t go your way, especially being a freshman in college. So I’m trying to stay confident and continue to hone my skills.

I think the area that I feel I’m still working to improve on is my defensive positioning. That’s an area that Coach Jackson stresses to me a lot. I have to play like the stay-at-home defenseman that I am, so I think that’s one of the important things. I look at (NHL) guys like Brent Seabrook, who is just an amazing defensive player. I’ve looked at how he has progressed and what he can do, and I’d love to be able to become the standout defensive defenseman that he is.

HF: Is he one player that you try to pattern your style of play after?

KL: Absolutely. I think him and probably Chris Pronger as well. He’s a big, strong defenseman that’s a great puck mover. I think he’s probably a little more offensive than I think I’ll ever be, but I definitely feel that he and Seabrook are guys that I try to learn things from.

HF: How are you forging your identity on defense?

KL: I think I would say defensively. There’s a reason why I picked to play defense. My dad has been telling me for years that I’d rather prevent a goal than score one. So that’s always been my first priority. I only have one goal this year, and it was a fluke (Laughs), so that kind of tells you what kind of defenseman that I am. I’m much more proud of my plus/minus than how many goals I’ve scored. So that’s just pretty much my identity.

HF: What are doing or working on that you feel will help you contribute more offensively?

KL: I think it’s something that just comes with honing my offensive skills on the blue line, such as puck-handling and especially shooting. That’s the big thing for me. I’m working on trying to get more pucks through (to the net) and joining the rush too. That’s been another thing that my coaches have been stressing to me as well. I’ve worked on my skating in the off-season and continue to work on that before and after practice so that I can join the rush more often. Coach Pooley has been really great about being there to help me, whether it’s with my skating or anything else.

HF: Were you at the Ducks Prospects camp over the summer?

KL: I was.

HF: What were some of the things that you learned from that camp that you’ve been able to bring to Notre Dame this year?

When you go to camps like that you get to see close up just the pro-style mentality that you need to have. You also get to see how tough it is at the next level too. I was actually able to watch Cam Fowler and how he carried himself. You could just tell by watching him that he was going to be an NHL star. So it’s fun, but it’s also hard work and you really learn a lot from these older players. I think Notre Dame is very similar in that regard and built on that. I think one of the reasons why Anaheim was interested in me is because they knew I was coming to Notre Dame and knows that Coach Jackson does a great job here. He treats us like professionals and I believe we work harder than any other team in the country, whether it’s on the ice, off the ice, in the weight room or in the classroom. We have a real pro mentality here at Notre Dame and I think that’s something that a lot of pro teams look at.

Are you planning to attend the camp again this coming summer?

KL: I’m going to try to. I have summer school, so if I can I’m going to try and make it out there.

HF: Have the Ducks been keeping tabs on your progress at Notre Dame throughout the season?

KL: Yes. I’m in close contact with (Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations) David McNab, so he comes out to watch me play. He was at the CCHA Tournament and has been out to Notre Dame a couple of times too. He’s really helped me along with my transition and it’s been all positive.

HF: What are you going to be able to bring to the Ducks organization in the future?

KL: I think I’m a strong defensive presence. I’m a defensive defenseman that likes to take care of his own end first. I have a lot of respect for what goalies do and I try to never hang my goalie out to dry. I really, really like to focus on the defensive aspects, so if that’s what they’re looking for in Anaheim, then that’s great for me. Joining Anaheim in the future is something that I’m really looking forward to.