The Surrey-born winger has 30 goals and 82 points in 55 games with the Red Deer Rebels this season.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin has repeatedly stressed the need to add depth to the organization. The plan? College and European free agency, where the Canucks can add promising players without spending draft picks. In particular, Allvin’s connections in Europe could give the Canucks a boost.

The Canucks’ first signing of the Allvin era, however, comes from their own backyard. On Friday, the Canucks signed Arshdeep Bains from Surrey to an entry-level contract.

Bains, 21, is in the midst of a stellar off-age season in the WHL for the Red Deer Rebels. The winger is currently tied for the lead in points in the WHL with 30 goals and 82 points in 55 games. He is the first player of South Asian descent to lead the WHL in scoring according to the Canucks.

To go with his score, Bains has solid height at 6’1″, 183 pounds, quick hands and great edge work in his skating. His overall skating needs work according to NHL scouts, as the jump at NHL speed could be a challenge Skating has been a focus of the Canucks’ development plans, hiring Mackenzie Braid as a dedicated skating coach with the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks.

It is fair to call Bains a late bloomer. In his first year of draft eligibility, Bains had just 18 points in 63 games, showing few signs of the dominant offensive player he would become in a few years.

“Basically I went from midget hockey, where the only people watching the game are your parents, to Red Deer to go play my first game and that’s 5,000 people watching you play,” Bains said in a statement. upcoming documentary about south asian hockey players. “It’s not an easy jump.”

He has shown steady progress since. He had 18 goals and 51 points in 63 games in his sophomore year and then, in limited games in the COVID-19 bubble, had 8 goals and 21 points in 23 games last season.

This season, however, has been a blast. With the caveat that he has already turned 21, Bains’ production has put him on the radar of NHL teams. He was a catalyst for the Rebels, helping them clinch third place in the WHL Eastern Conference and playing a key role in the team’s third-place power play.

“I’ve been in the league for a long time now” said Bains a few weeks ago“and I’ve learned well every year, I’m getting better every year. I kept getting better every year, so I knew I could be that player, a player that I’m trying to become, and I “I’m still trying to improve. I’m proud of myself to have achieved this so far, but there’s still a long season to go.

Bains is an exciting player, with all sorts of tricks up his sleeve, from spinorama dekes to leg kicks to blind backhand passes. He’s an adept playmaker, able to find teammates in the best spots to score and also put pucks into space with smooth saucer passes.

Bains also has a slew of shooting moves, making him a nightmare for opposing goaltenders.

He also doesn’t hesitate to rush in front of the net to score.

Bains is obviously also a strategic thinker. During the pandemic, he chose a new hobby: failures.

“I learned a lot in chess, that’s the main thing outside of hockey,” Bains said. “It’s my hobby at home – with COVID and all, that’s what I’ve learned. I’m playing online and watching videos, learning. Pretty bored, I learned the game and now I’m a bit addicted.

There’s a lot to like about this signing for the Canucks. The local aspect is a big draw and immediate connection for Surrey Canucks fans and South Asian Canucks fans across the province.

“I never really had too many hockey role models growing up, so if I can help South Asian kids get into the sport, that’s special to me,” said Bains last month.

If his season with Red Deer ends soon enough, he could even sign an amateur tryout and hit the ice for the Abbotsford Canucks this season.

Beyond the local angle, Bains has some serious talent. It’s still unclear how an older player will develop, but there’s at least the potential for Bains to become a legit NHL player, with a creative flair beyond what the typical undrafted free agent might. to offer.