In his first WHL game this season, Red Deer Rebels forward Akash Bains also scored his first career goal.
What seems like a century ago for the 17-year-old, there have been scratches, injuries and slumps along the way as a first-year player through 47 games.
He’s only scored five more times after that initial marker and added seven assists, the young left winger acknowledged the challenge is to stay committed to developing.
“It’s a learning process. It’s kind of difficult. You want to score. Scoring is awesome. You just have to keep working hard,” Bains said.
Scoring was something that came easy to Bains in the minor hockey ranks, including his bantam season at the Okanagan Hockey Academy where he had 31 goals and 57 points in 59 games. At the Delta Hockey Academy in 2015-2016, he put up 38 points in 29 games.
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt said they understand the potential to score in the WHL is there with Bains, especially considering the high-level thinker of the game he is.
“He’s a smart hockey player. He has to use his smarts and intelligence to create space and get some offensive opportunities. He’s got to be assertive,” Truitt said.
“He’s a strong kid, when it comes down to where he’s at, he’s got to determine where he’s at depending on his effectiveness. He can score goals, we know that. They’re hard to come by in this league. He’s gotta work through it and keep working to get better. As a young player that’s what you look for.”
The Delta, B.C., native was drafted by the Rebels in the ninth round of the WHL Bantam Draft in 2014 and on Feb. 18 will have his first chance to play just a quick 20-minute drive from where he grew up.
“It’ll be awesome. Really excited, probably have lots of friends and family come out to watch. Little bit nervous, but it will be fun,” Bains said about when the Rebels are on the road facing the Vancouver Giants next week.
Those nerves will undoubtedly increase as that moment draws near, much like they do as Bains wonders where he will slot into the Rebels lineup on a nightly basis.
Those are the worries of a first-year forward in the WHL, something Truitt said requires a constant commitment to grow out of. From that commitment comes confidence and an willingness to standout.
“He has to be a catalyst. He has to be a guy who takes control of things on a consistent basis and not wait for something to happen, but make something happen,” Truitt said.
“He’s a strong guy, a good skater. He’s got power and he has to use that stuff at a high rate of speed and high level. Just (needs) that intensity of I’m not a first-year player anymore. I have to assert myself and get noticed. You can’t play cautious and really take control.”
With a young core of 17-year-old players the Rebels have, the more Bains learns now, the better off he’ll be as one of the key pieces of the forward group. That step, at the very least is not lost on the six-foot, 184-pound winger.
“Play with confidence. Knowing that I’m good enough to play here. Play my game and not worry about everything else,” he said.