Photo credit: Rob Wallator of the Red Deer Rebels
*This was originally posted March 11, 2022*
On Friday morning the Vancouver Canucks announced that the club had signed overage WHL star Arshdeep Bains to a three-year entry-level contract. Though the 21-year-old winger will remain with the Red Deer Rebels until the end of their season, his impending time with the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL will have huge implications on his NHL future.
Born in Surrey, Bains played his youth hockey with the Burnaby Winter Club and Delta Hockey Academy before transitioning to Major Midget after going undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft. As a 16-year-old with the Valley West Hawks, Bains lead the league with 56 points in 22 games before joining the Rebels for the remainder of the season. Thus began a five-year WHL career that has spanned 244 games and counting. Bains truly came into his own as a player in his draft plus one season, in which he led an underwhelming Rebels team in scoring with 51 points in 63 games. The following season Bains was named an alternate captain, and had his leadership tested in a historically bad Rebels season. This year, with plenty of team turnover, and development from leaders such as Bains, Red Deer finds themselves sixth in the WHL with a chance to clinch a spot in the WHL playoffs as soon as Friday.
Bains currently leads the WHL in points with 30 goals and 82 points in 55 games. Alongside linemate Benjamin King, another intriguing undrafted forward, Bains has been able to overpower his opponents. At 6-foot-1, he is often unforeseen as a physical threat, however Bains is the definition of sturdy. The past few seasons, his strength has allowed him to dominate the game in transition. Furthermore, Bains is not afraid to mix it up with his opposition, as he has fared well each time he has dropped the gloves in the WHL. Though his puck skills are exciting, where Bains truly excels is away from the puck. His hockey IQ is truly something to marvel at. Bains stalks the offensive zone with ease, shaking defenders and reading the play as it develops to find himself open ice where he unleashes his consistently evolving shot. Although he has a few highlight reel tallies this season, that is not what the fortes of his game consist of. His high IQ away from the puck also applies in the defensive zone, as he has spent time on Red Deer’s penalty kill over the years. At 5 on 5, Bains’ quick but calculated decision making regularly creates chances up ice for his linemates, as reflected in his 52 assists this season. His 35 powerplay points this year are good for third in the WHL, with his skillful puck moving contributing to the Rebels’ holding the third best powerplay in the league.
Bains’ largest weakness is glaring however, as his skating has not developed and will certainly hold him back during his transition to pro hockey. Assuming the Rebels book their ticket to the postseason, the earliest we could see Bains in an Abbotsford Canucks jersey is late April, when the team will be preparing for the post season. The sooner the better, as I’m sure the development staff within the Canucks organization are itching to have him begin training with Abbotsford’s dedicated skating coach Mackenzie Braid. At 29-years-old, Braid is in his second season within the Canucks organization, and has had quite the unique mentorship during his transition from playing pro hockey to coaching it. His mother, Dawn Braid, is one of the most influential skating coaches in the history of the game. A former national-level figure skater, she became the first woman in NHL history to hold a fulltime coaching position in the NHL when she was named the Arizona Coyotes skating coach in 2016. As a result of her guidance, and Mackenzie’s playing experience, he has turned heads within the Canucks organization. She will certainly have a huge impact on whether or not Bains can have success at the NHL level.