Rebels winger Bains pushing forward in his second full WHL season
Now in his second full season with the Red Deer Rebels, Arshdeep Bains finds himself in a prominent position with the Western Hockey League club.
As a result, the 18-year-old forward is paying dividends.
Bains assisted on linemate Ben King’s goal in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at Lethbridge and moved to the front of the Rebels points parade with 21.
“Personally, I feel the season has been a lot better at the start than last year,” he said Thursday. “I’ve been given more opportunity and bigger roles this season. Obviously you have to keep learning and developing when you’re given your roles, but it’s been nice and I’ve been enjoying it so far.”
Bains, who has contributed eight goals and 13 assists this season, credits much of his success to linemates King, who centers the unit, and Chris Douglas.
“My linemates have been great and we’ve all been working really well together,” he noted. “There’s no selfishness at all. We’ve been looking for each other and making plays.”
And the trio has also been playing with a keen sense of defensive awareness.
“Obviously everyone wants to be better on the defensive side. You can never be perfect but you just have to keep getting better and better,” said Bains. “Our line, I think, has been pretty good in the defensive zone but we have to keep improving in that area.”
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter has been thrilled with the improvement the Surrey, B.C., product has shown this season.
Bains, a list player, was leading the BC Major Midget League as a 16-year-old in 2017-18 — with 16 goals and 56 points in 22 games with Valley West — when he was summoned by the Rebels just prior to Christmas.
He scored twice and added five assists in 40 games with Red Deer through the remainder of that season, then put up six goals and 18 points in 63 games in 2018-19.
Clearly, this is shaping up as a career year for the six-foot-one, 183-pound left winger and as Sutter noted, it hasn’t come about by accident.
“Bainsy did things right this past summer on how he wanted to train and from things we discussed last spring,” said the Rebels boss. “He dialled himself in and full marks to him.
“He’s played very well for us. He’s got skill but the thing that’s allowing his skill to happen for him is that he’s competing and winning battles. He’s getting into tough areas to make plays. We’ve been very happy with Bainsy. He’s taken a big step.”
Sutter always felt that Bains had the potential to be a more forceful — and therefore productive — player.
“Kind of the way he’s playing now is what we saw of him when he was playing midget as a 16-year-old,” said Sutter. “But it’s just experience, getting stronger, knowing the league. It’s a tough league to play in and it just takes time.”
Bains, who turns 19 next month, is getting bigger minutes this season because he fully deserves the extra responsibility, Sutter added.
“His role has changed significantly for us. He’s playing a lot five-on-five as well as on the penalty kill and power play,” he said. “But he’s earned it all and he’s getting rewarded for it.”
Not that points are the be-all-and-end-all, Sutter pointed out.
“It might not always be rewarding in just the sense that he’s scoring goals and putting up points, but just the way he’s playing. Bainsy has been a real solid player for us.”
That being said, the Rebels could easily be 6-1 or even 7-0 — instead of 3-4 — in their last seven outings with a timely goal here and there. Sutter was particularly displeased following Wednesday’s game in the sense that his squad fired blanks on too many solid scoring opportunities.
“We’re going to have to work on that,” said Bains. “We have to go hard to the net and finish . . . work harder to get to the areas that are hard to get to. Just battle and compete and get goals like that.”
Despite letting several games slip through the fingers, the Rebels have been a markedly better team since suffering a one-sided home-ice loss to Lethbridge on Nov. 23.
“We’ve found our identity. We’ve been working hard and just playing within our structure,” said Bains. “Good things will happen when we outwork the other team every night.”
The Rebels host the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday and then close out the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule Saturday against the visiting Swift Current Broncos.
Saturday’s contest will feature the annual Toque Toss. This year, fans are being asked to bring — in plastic bags — toques, mitts, scarves, socks and stuffed toys to toss on the ice following the Rebels’ first goal. The goods will be donated to the Red Deer Christmas Bureau.
Ticket prices for the game have been reduced to $18 for adults and $10 for youth and parking is free.
“It’s good for the community and it’s nice to get to do this for charity,” said Bains. “And it’s always nice when fans come out to support us.”
On another note, neither forward Jaxsen Wiebe nor goalie Ethan Anders, both listed as day-to-day with injuries, will return to action until after the Christmas break.
Rebels vs. Medicine Hat Tigers
Friday, 7 p.m., Centrium
The Tigers are 8-2-0-0 in their last 10 games and sit second in both the Central Division and Eastern Conference with a 22-8-1-0 record . . . C James Hamblin leads all WHL scorers with 49 points, including 17 goals. The Tigers are deep up front with Brent Kemp (14g,25a,39pts), Ryan Chyzowski (16-18-34) and Cole Sillinger (12-22-34) — all listed at the center ice position — each having in excess of 30 points and four additional players having 20 or more . . . The Medicine Hat goaltending is also balanced with Mads Sogaard, a second-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in the 2019 NHL entry draft, owning a 2.73 goals-against average and .905 save percentage and rookie Gavin Bjorklund possessing numbers of 2.83 and .905. Sogaard has a win-loss record of 11-6-1 and Bjorklund is 11-2-0.
Injuries: Medicine Hat — None to report. Red Deer — D Kyle Masters (lower body, week-to-week), G Ethan Anders (lower body, day-to-day), RW Jaxsen Wiebe (upper body, day-to-day).
Special teams: Medicine Hat — Power play 28.9 per cent, first overall; penalty kill 76.9 per cent, 18th. Red Deer — Power play 16.9 per cent, 17th overall; penalty kill 77.4 per cent, 17th.