Red Deer Rebels forward Ben King leads the WHL with 43 goals in 53 games. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)

Red Deer Rebels forward Ben King leads the WHL with 43 goals in 53 games. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)

King, Bains hunt down pro contracts as Red Deer Rebels success continues

Red Deer Rebels’ forward Ben King leads the league in goals while Arshdeep Bains leads in points

Brent Sutter certainly doesn’t want to coin himself as a modern-day Nostrodamus, but he saw this coming.

Sutter, the Red Deer Rebels owner, president and GM, who until last season was also the head coach of the club knew the potential of the group he had helped develop.

After going 4-15-4 last season, the Rebels have seen a remarkable reversal of fourtunes, to the tune of a 35-15-2-1 mark this year, third in the Eastern Conference and in a battle for top spot in the Central Division.

“Last year was a completely different situation than normal circumstances… the whole environment was so different. To me, you really had to be careful with how you looked at your team and how you looked at individuals through that,” he said.

“I had a really good feeling that if we could do the right things in the summer, by adding the players we did that we could have a really good team…I thought we nailed it this summer.”

Beyond a number of additions in the offseason, including bringing in new head coach Steve Konowalchuk, the Rebels have got more than they bargained for from two known commodities.

Ben King, who Sutter acquired in November of 2019 for a package of prospects, leads the WHL in goals with 43 in just 53 games.

His goal total this season is among all-time single season marks for the Rebels over the past 30 years. With 15 games left, King is tied for eighth on the all-time list, behind single season goal marks from Rebels’ legends like B.J. Young, Kyle Wanvig and Arron Asham.

“Shaun (Sutter) and I felt at the time – we knew we were trading for a player that had a tremendous amount of skill, good sized player and just had to figure some things out,” Sutter said.

“Shaun and I both told NHL teams at the end of the year last year, that we were hoping he would have got drafted last draft because he’s going to come back to major junior hockey and lead our league in goals or be one of the top two or three guys. He is that.

“He can shoot, he’s smart and he’s playing a strong, 200-foot game now.”

The 19-year-old has been passed over in the past two NHL drafts and Sutter believes that shouldn’t happen a third time.

“It’s hard to believe anybody can look past him now, with the season he’s having as a 19-year-old, going into this draft,” Sutter said of the former first-round WHL Bantam Draft pick.

And his chemistry with linemate Arshdeep Bains, who leads the WHL in points with 80, has been something to marvel at. The Rebels added Bains to their protected list 2017 and the team called him up from the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League partway through that season.

Sutter said he always saw the potential in the 20-year-old but this year he found a way to take his game to a new level.

“In his 16-year-old season, he was leading the Triple-A midget league in B.C. in scoring. We brought him in and every player develops at different stages… it’s taken him all that time to get where he’s at,” Sutter noted about Bains, who has 21 points in the last nine games.

“It’s a credit to him for staying with it, not giving up on himself, staying positive – keep working and keep making himself better everyday… I think he’s done a really good job and he’s being rewarded for it.”

Bains, with 29 goals and 51 assists in 53 games, has drawn some NHL interest this season, but Sutter said as the lights get brighter he’ll have to keep shining if he wants to earn a pro contract.

“He’s been looked at. Big games for those kids, you always gotta leave scouts in the mindset when they leave the building that there’s something there. Bainsy has always had the skill to produce points and stuff, it was just figuring out the game,” Sutter said.

The Rebels are back in action Friday night on the road when they take on the Regina Pats, before visiting the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday.

 

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains leads the WHL with 80 points in 53 games. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains leads the WHL with 80 points in 53 games. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)