With a new front office led by Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin in place, the Vancouver Canucks are heading in a new direction when it comes to finding prospects and developing talent. While the previous regime for the most part avoided the Western Hockey League (WHL) and its many stars, this group, even though it’s still early, has already dipped its toes into it by signing leading scorer and 100-point man Arshdeep Bains. Now, the next move they should make is selecting his linemate Ben King in the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft or signing him afterwards – if they get a chance to, that is.
King Already Has Chemistry With Bains
Currently 1-2 in WHL scoring with 110 and 103 points respectively, Bains and King have developed into quite the dynamic duo for the Red Deer Rebels. Generating over a point-per-game, they are putting together historic seasons in what happens to be their swan song in the WHL.
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In King’s case, he is the first 50-goal scorer since Kyle Wanvig put together 55 in 69 games in 2000-01 and with only one game remaining in the 2021-22 season, needs a hat trick to tie that mark in 68 games. He only has one on the season scored back on Jan. 29 against the Lethbridge Hurricanes but has gotten close 12 times, so it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. If he does end up doing it, he will tie him for the second-most goals scored in a regular-season behind only B.J. Young’s 58 he scored in 1996-97.
As for Bains, he is only 11 points away from surpassing Justin Mapletoft’s 120 he posted in 2000-01. Though, unless he goes on a ridiculous bender against the Edmonton Oil Kings in the final game (unlikely), he will probably finish tied with Young for third, especially if he continues the three or four-point nights he’s been putting up lately.
Related: Canucks Add Intriguing Skill With the Signing of Arshdeep Bains
All in all, it’s been pretty amazing what Bains and King have accomplished this season as a duo. As the pivot, King sets up Bains more often than not, and as a playmaking winger, he often returns the favour as well. There are not many highlight reels that show King without Bains’ name being mentioned or vice versa for that matter. In the end, it only makes sense to draft or sign King and transfer that scoring power and chemistry to the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Abbotsford Canucks. Who knows, if all goes well, they might have a poor man’s Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi on their hands.
King Could Be Another Late Bloomer
Before coming to the Rebels during the 2019-20 season, King was previously a first-round (13th overall) pick of the Swift Current Broncos in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. Selected out of the CSSHL’s Pursuit of Excellence U15 Prep Program, he had 16 goals and 46 points in 22 games during his draft year. Obviously, the Broncos saw something in the then-14-year-old to make him a top-15 pick in that draft.
Unfortunately, King couldn’t really get it going with the Broncos, as he finished his career with only nine goals and 34 points in 71 games before the 2019-20 early-season trade to the Rebels. Almost immediately, he found his legs with his new team as he got off to a great start putting up a goal and four points in his first four games. By the end of the season, he had 16 goals and 38 points in 46 games and had appeared to have found a home in Red Deer.
As we all know by now, the good times kept rolling into the shortened 2020-21 season when King recorded 12 goals and 28 points in 21 games, setting the table for the historic season he is having right now. In fact, he is doing exactly what Rebels GM and head coach Brian Sutter envisioned for him when he acquired him for a bunch of prospects in November of 2019.
“Shaun (Sutter) and I felt at the time – we knew we were trading for a player that had a tremendous amount of skill, good sized player and just had to figure some things out,” Sutter said. “He can shoot, he’s smart and he’s playing a strong, 200-foot game now.”
Passed over in both the 2020 and 2021 NHL Drafts, King won’t be looked over a third time, at least he shouldn’t be according to Sutter. “It’s hard to believe anybody can look past him now, with the season he’s having as a 19-year-old, going into this draft” (from ‘King, Bains hunt down pro contracts as Red Deer Rebels success continues’, Red Deer Advocate, 3/3/22).
Even if King is somehow left off the board at the end of the 2022 Draft, someone will end up signing him, that’s almost a guarantee. The Canucks should make every effort to make sure it is them, either by using one of their late-round picks in this draft or offering him a contract as an undrafted free agent. He’s showing all the signs of being a late-bloomer that just needed a couple of years after his draft season to develop. So why not continue his rise in British Columbia with his buddy Bains?