Although the preparation and dream of playing in the NHL essentially started when he learned how to skate - as it does with many young Canadian hockey players - the future really does start now for Shaunavon's Kole Lind.

The current Kelowna Rockets forward, and signed prospect of the Vancouver Canucks logged six games with the Canuck's AHL affiliate Utica Comets to end the 2017-18 season, posting one assist and a +1 rating.

With hopes of cracking the organization's NHL roster next season, the off-season starts now for Lind, now that he's back from Utica.

"Getting stronger is the biggest part about it because playing hopefully pro hockey against men, obviously everyone is strong," Lind said. "And, being able to protect pucks - the body checks are even just a lot harder. I think that's something I have to prepare for this summer for sure."

If the bid to play in the NHL doesn't pan out, Lind says he'd be happy to continue to grow his game and prove his worth in the AHL,

"Obviously I want to play the best hockey I can and play in the NHL, but if Vancouver thinks it would be good for me to have a year to develop and prepare for what's in store up there, I'm totally ready for that," Lind noted, adding that he took a similar path in his jump from the SMAAAHL's Saskatoon Contacts en route to the Okanagan.

"I did that my 16-year-old year going to the WHL, I stayed back and played Midget another year. Obviously that paid huge dividends towards my career and I'd understand that side too."

A couple other young southwest Saskatchewan products find themselves set for potentially a similar path as Lind after being selected by the Rockets in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft earlier this month.

Fifth-round pick (106th overall) Hayden Wilm, the Kabos Bantam AA Broncos captain this past season, as well as his teammate and goaltender Justin Dueck (Tenth round - 204th overall) have been added to the southwest contingent in the Rockets prospect ranks.

"Kelowna's had a knack of finding good players in the southwest region - they're a great organization," said Lind. "They've helped me develop so much into the player I am today, and for them (Wilm and Dueck) I'm very excited. Just to get out there and be around the community out there is very exciting for them too I'm sure."

While Dueck and Wilm continue their development, Lind will be fighting for a roster spot at the pro level later this summer.

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