It took a while, but Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin have now made their first signing as members of the Vancouver Canucks’ front office. Early Friday morning, they announced the signing of 21-year-old overager Arshdeep Bains, who currently plays for the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League (WHL). Hailing from their backyard in Surrey, BC, he leads the league with a gaudy 30 goals and 82 points in 55 games.
Reportedly garnering interest from upwards of 20 NHL teams, Bains has burst out of his shell and become a premier scoring talent in the junior leagues. Before 2021-22, his career-high was 18 goals and 51 points. He surpassed that total on Jan. 23 against the Moose Jaw Warriors in only his 39th game after taking the entire season to do it in 2019-20. Needless to say, he seems to have turned a corner in his development.
Bains’ Journey From Walk-On To WHL Star
Bains is no stranger to being passed over in drafts. Before he went undrafted during his NHL Draft eligibility, he was passed over in the WHL Bantam Draft back in 2017. But he didn’t give up on his dream of becoming a pro hockey player. He worked hard with the Valley West Hawks and finally earned a chance with the Rebels in 2018 after putting together 16 goals and 56 points in 22 games.
After that, as they say, the rest is history. Bains scored his first WHL goal on Dec. 30, 2017, and since then, has never looked back. It didn’t take long for him to earn regular ice time from general manager/head coach Brent Sutter and garner praise from the veteran bench boss.
He’s smart, he knows how to play the game. He’s strong, he has good size and he’s a very dependable guy. He has that offensive touch to him because he’s so smart.Brent Sutter on what Bains brings to the team
Self-described as a skilled forward who cares about playing a 200-foot game, Bains got off to a roaring start in the WHL recording three points in his first five career games. He cooled off after that and finished the 2017-18 season with two goals and seven points in 40 games.
During Bains’ first full season in 2018-19, he bounced between the top-six and bottom-six all season and didn’t really get on a roll offensively finishing with only six goals and 18 points in 63 games. Despite that, Sutter was still happy with his development as a player.
“We’ve been happy with Bainsy,” said Sutter. “The biggest thing with Bainsy is he gets frustrated sometimes when he gets scoring opportunities and doesn’t finish, but that’s going to come with being a half second quicker and having a quicker release around the net.”
And Sutter was right, as Bains turned it on during his draft year in 2019-20 and started finishing off those chances around the net. Pointing to his work on the ice and in the gym during the summer as a reason for the dramatic turnaround, he became the Rebels’ most improved player and finished the season with 18 goals and 51 points in 63 games.
He came back in his 18-year-old season and was just a different player, a lot more confident…Everyone knew he had offensive skills but coming back he really took off. Offensively you could see the confidence growing in him.Assistant coach Ryan Colville
Unfortunately, that breakout season was not enough to entice an NHL team to draft him. In fact, Bains found himself on the outside looking in after both the 2020 and 2021 Drafts even after putting together another solid campaign (8 goals, 13 assists in 23 games) in the WHL bubble during the 2020-21 COVID-19 shortened season.
Bains Breaks Out and Becomes First South Asian To Lead WHL in Scoring
Placed on a top line with another overager in 19-year-old Ben King and 18-year-old Jhett Larson, Bains took off in 2021-22 and eventually became the first of South Asian descent to ever lead the WHL in scoring. As of this writing, he is tied with Kyle Crnkovic of the Saskatoon Blades with 82 points. By the end of the season, he could conceivably hit 100 if he keeps up the pace he is on right now. His linemate, King has a lot to do with it as well, as he has a career-high 43 goals with many of his tallies set up by Bains.
Bains is also promoting South Asians in hockey by being a part of a documentary called “Out of the Stands” which will feature three other players of South Asian descent in Surrey-born Arvin Atwal (playing pro in Slovakia) and Richmond-raised Kayden Sadhra-Kang (Swift Current Broncos) and Arjun Bawa (BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals). The film is set to be released in the fall (from ‘Surrey’s Bains signs with Canucks after high-scoring season in WHL’, Peace Arch News, 3/11/22).
Canucks Add Intriguing Depth Piece
Progressively improving every season he has been in the WHL, Bains has developed into one of the most exciting players in the league. Combining size, hands, creativity and as mentioned before, two-way smarts and a fierce work ethic, he has all the tools to become a solid contributor in the NHL. He probably won’t ever be a high-scoring top-six forward, but someone that can pot 10-15 goals in a bottom-six role is definitely a reachable ceiling for him. With the success Allvin and Rutherford, and the Canucks, for that matter, have had with undrafted free agents in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit that ceiling one day.
Now signed with his hometown team, Bains could see the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Abbotsford Canucks or even its parent club before the end of the season. That will all depend on how far the Rebels go in the WHL Playoffs, though, which start in a few weeks. Regardless, it will be interesting to see if his scoring skills translate to the next level, whether it be in a month or in 2022-23.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.