Canucks like what they have in Bains

Darren Francis Photography

Patrick Williams, Features Writer

The Vancouver Canucks liked enough of what they had seen from Arshdeep Bains to give him an entry-level contract.

Having gone undrafted, the forward led the Western Hockey League with 112 points (43 goals, 69 assists) as an over-ager with Red Deer in 2021-22. Gaudy point totals sometimes can be deceiving when trying to project a prospect’s long-term outlook. Still, Bains possesses a strong feel for the game and good vision. He has “hockey IQ,” plays a well-rounded, trustworthy game. And he battles.

That package will endear a player to any coach.

Maybe there might be something there, the Canucks thought, and they gave the British Columbia native a three-year deal on Mar. 11, 2022. And Bains responded with a solid rookie season, playing 66 games for Abbotsford in 2022-23 and finishing with 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists).

“It was a pretty good wake-up call coming in and seeing how fast and competitive this league is, how close guys are to being NHL players,” Bains said. “When I came in, I was able to see what I had to do and what I had to work on.”

Skating had been a knock on Bains coming into the pro game – as it is with so many young players – but the Canucks had someone more than willing to work to strengthen that must-have element of his game.

Now the points are coming in Abbotsford, just as they did two years ago in Red Deer. Bains broke out quickly this season, posting a goal and three assists in a 7-4 opening-night victory at Laval. He has barely slowed down, and opens this week tied for second in AHL scoring with 17 points – including a league-leading 14 assists – through 13 games.

Abbotsford pulled into a tie for the Pacific Division lead at 17 points with back-to-back home wins against Bakersfield this past week.

Canucks head coach Jeremy Colliton has teamed Bains with veteran Sheldon Dries on a top line, and the pair have clicked. Bains set up a Dries goal in a 4-0 win over Bakersfield on Saturday night, outmuscling a defender for a loose puck in the neutral zone, winning a race down the left boards, and then finessing a pass through two sticks to set up the finish.


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Vancouver likes the 22-year-old Bains off the ice as well. So much so that they had him as a speaker for their prospects at their development camp this past summer.

Chris Higgins, Vancouver’s assistant director of player development, played 711 NHL games across parts of 12 seasons. He put in another 165 games in the AHL, and understands what is required to turn a player into an NHL’er. Higgins reached out to Bains to see if he would be willing to speak to Vancouver’s prospects, some of whom had just been selected in the NHL Draft.

These youngsters might be years away from any sort of NHL career, but Vancouver wanted them to hear from someone in a similar age group who has put himself on the National Hockey League’s doorstep.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Bains admits. “I think I just wanted to give them my story.”

There are all kinds of prospects at an NHL club’s development camp. First-round picks bearing all of the pressure that such status carries, just a few days removed from the hype, glamour, and photo shoots of the NHL Draft. And there are undrafted players like Bains who managed to secure an invitation – no guarantees, no promises, just an opportunity.

“Being able to get [your] foot in the door, being able to showcase that you are a good player,” Bains said. “You have abilities. It was a good experience for them and myself as well.”

In training camp this fall, Bains dressed for three NHL preseason games before reporting to Abbotsford. As with so many prospects, now the test is to deliver a dependable performance nightly.

First comes doing that at the AHL level. And if that happens, the NHL can follow.

“I just want to be a trusted player,” Bains said of his ongoing objectives. “I have to be consistent and be able to perform every night.”