Scoring his first Western Hockey League (WHL) goal is a memory Red Deer Rebels forward Arjun Bawa won’t soon forget.
While playing against the Prince Albert Raiders last Saturday Bawa got his first tally and even though it took him 24 games to capture his first goal he’s just happy to finally get on the board.
“It was an incredible feeling,” he told the Advocate. “It definitely took a lot longer than I wanted to but I’m very happy.”
“I was just getting up [towards the net] and rolled off my check and I showed my backhand towards the net. [Jace] Weir gave me a shot pass and I deflected it off the backhand and went five-hole.”
The 17-year-old from Richmond, B.C. was selected by the Rebels in the second round of the 2020 WHL Prospects Draft. Standing six feet two inches tall and approximately 178 pounds, Bawa plays a physical game and has enjoyed his rookie season in central Alberta so far.
“I think it’s a great team and the boys are very welcoming. I think we have the potential to go all the way this year and looking forward to keeping it going,” he said.
The Rebels began the season on fire winning a WHL record 15-straight games before they lost seven of eight games. Since then, Red Deer has pulled together two straight wins against the P.A. Raiders and the Calgary Hitmen.
“I think we had a great start obviously we went 15-0 that’s incredible,” he said. “Lately, we’ve been in a little slump but we got back to it winning both games on the weekend… When it gets to those overtime shootouts just persevering through those and getting through that adversity.”
Bawa has played the majority of the season on the fourth forward line but on Saturday ahead of the game against the Raiders he was promoted to the third line. Bawa said the coaching staff has told him every game he’s improved and that they want him to remain consistent and continue to improve.
“One thing is moving up in the lineup and another thing is staying up there. You definitely have to maintain that level of play to stay up on the third line,” he explained. “I’m definitely looking for more goals.”
Bawa’s father, Robin, played 12 years of professional hockey in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League, and International Hockey League. He made his NHL debut during the 1989-90 season for the Washington Capitals and became the first player of South Asian descent to play in the league. He also played time for the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks.
Bawa said his father told him preparation for games is key and that consistency is important.
“He also told me even if the points aren’t coming they’re going to come I’m going to get my break,” he added.
Since being drafted by the Rebels, Bawa played last season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) last season for the Cowichan Valley Capitals where he scored four goals and four assists for eight points in 46 games. He explained his time in the BCHL was ideal for his preparation to play in the WHL.
“Playing with older players, I feel like that better prepared me for a league where I’m playing with 20-year-olds and 19-year-olds. It helped me get adjusted to that strength and their speed and I feel like I’ve adapted well to the WHL so far.”