Class of 2022 – Red Deer Rebels
Throughout the month of August, we’re celebrating the class of WHL Graduates from the 2021-22 season. Join us as we go Club by Club in recognizing the achievements of the 20-year-old players from this past season moving on to access their WHL Scholarship or to professional hockey.
We continue our 22-part series with the Red Deer Rebels and their graduating trio of Arshdeep Bains, Liam Keeler and Jackson van de Leest.
Surrey, B.C.’s Arshdeep Bains spent five seasons in Red Deer, appearing in 276 regular season and playoff games with the Rebels after making his debut in 2017.
Bains scored his first WHL goal versus the Medicine Hat Tigers December 30, 2017 as part of a two-point effort.
His offensive output improved exponentially year-over-year, as Bains tripled his goal total from two to six in 2018-19, then from six to 18 goals and 51 points during the 2019-20 season.
But Bains saved his best for last in the WHL, leading the league in assists (69) and points (112) in 2021-22, becoming the first player of South Asian descent to capture the Bob Clarke Trophy as WHL Top Scorer.
He had an astounding 17 appearances in 2021-22 with three or more points, including a hat-trick and five-point night February 5 at Saskatoon.
Bains added four goals and 10 points in the Rebels 2022 WHL Playoffs campaign, completing his WHL career with 219 regular season and playoff points.
His scoring prowess did not go unnoticed by NHL Clubs, either. This past March, Bains signed an entry-level contract with his hometown Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin announced today that the club has signed Surrey, BC’s Arshdeep Bains to an entry level contract.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) March 11, 2022
Selected by his hometown Edmonton Oil Kings in the first round of the 2016 WHL Draft, Liam Keeler played the majority of his 305-game WHL career in the Alberta capital.
Keeler made his WHL debut December 30, 2016 at Calgary, skating in seven games for the Oil Kings as a 15-year-old before breaking in full-time during the 2017-18 campaign.
His first WHL goal came November 18, 2017 at Prince George and in 60 appearances that season, Keeler registered 13 points.
He’d score eight more times in 2018-19 including his first multi-goal effort, which came against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, then chipped in with two more tallies including a game-winner in 16 playoff appearances that spring.
Keeler would spend two more seasons in Edmonton before an off-season move to the Red Deer Rebels in the summer of 2021. As a Rebel, he enjoyed his most productive offensive season with 25 goals and 45 points; 11 of his tallies came on the power-play.
He’d cap off his WHL career with 10 playoff appearances for the Rebels in 2022, as Red Deer reached the Second Round before being eliminated by the Oil Kings.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) May 10, 2022
Jackson van de Leest
Hulking blueliner Jackson van de Leest was selected 16th-overall by the Calgary Hitmen in the 2016 WHL Draft and played in 255 regular season contests with the Hitmen and Red Deer Rebels.
Standing 6-foot-7, van de Leest made his WHL debut at the Saddledome September 23, 2016 versus Kootenay, recording his first WHL point just under two months later against the ICE.
He’d appear in 36 games the following season as a 16-year-old, scoring his first WHL goal against Kootenay one year to the day after his WHL debut.
From there, the product of Kelowna, B.C. became a mainstay on the Calgary blueline, recording a career-best 28 points in 2019-20, and being named Hitmen captain in advance of the 2021-22 WHL season.
Calgary traded van de Leest in a multi-player move ahead of the 2022 WHL Trade Deadline; the defenceman proceeded to record 10 points in 34 regular season games as a Rebel, scoring four games into his Red Deer career in a road contest at Lethbridge.
He went on to add four assists in the Rebels’ playoff run, skating in a total of 23 WHL Playoffs contests over his career.
He will take advantage of his WHL Scholarship in the fall at Dalhousie University.
❗New Tiger Alert ❗
Please join head coach Chris Donnelly in welcoming Jackson van de Leest to the men's hockey team!
— Dal Tigers (@DalTigers) June 20, 2022