Canucks prospects tracker: Becoming Bains, Rathbone in a rhythm

Breaking down the game of new Canucks prospect Arshdeep Bains, Jack Rathbone finds his stride (again) and Danila Klimovich scores, in more ways than one

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It’s the latest edition of the weekly tracker, where we tally up the efforts of the Vancouver Canucks’ highest-profile prospects:

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Arshdeep Bains

All prospects are not created equal.

From skill set to developmental curve, these are young men still learning the game, if not their own bodies.

But seldom do you see a career trajectory like that of Arshdeep Bains, the 21-year-old Surrey product who has gone from an undrafted, unknown quantity to a Canucks’ commodity over the span of one explosive season with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels.

“Everybody blooms, physically and mentally, at different times of their career. So maybe now at (21) he’s starting to grow into his body more,” Rebels head coach Steve Konowalchuk told Postmedia. “I see a growth in confidence from ‘Bainsy’ from the start of the year until now, that he believes he’s an elite player.”

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Bains, a 6-foot, 183-pound left-shot winger, had been a point-a-game player for the Rebels over the past two seasons. This year, however, he’s hit another level, topping the WHL in points and generating plenty of NHL interest, resulting in the Canucks signing the hometown kid to an entry-level contract last month.

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In 66 games this season, Bains has scored 39 goals and assisted on 66 others, employing a sneaky, slippery style that’s unique to him.

“Players think they have him but in real tight spaces he can get out of traffic with the puck,” said Konowalchuk, himself a former captain of the Washington Capitals who logged over 850 NHL games, and had his own 104-point season in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks in 1991-92.

“It’s pretty impressive. He’s elusive that way and deceiving — there’s not a lot of players who have that skill set.”

Overall, Konowalchuk says Bains has above-average vision, a good, accurate wrist shot and is quick on his skates.

“He’s got a good top speed, but he’s definitely got a good agility where he can use his edges and spin around and get in and out of trouble.”

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Bains hit the century mark in a 5-4 overtime win at the Edmonton Oil Kings on April 3. His 100th point came on a power play midway through the second period, with Bains feeding a seeing-eye pass across the zone to a teammate for a one-timed finish.

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Bains also sent the game to overtime with 10 seconds left in the third, ripping a quick wrist shot past the goalie’s outstretched glove after a faceoff win.

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He finished the game with three points (1G, 2A) and three shots on goal. The one stat that stuck out for his coach, though, were the six hits Bains had — indicative of his growth away from the puck.

“That, to me, is a part of his game he’s going to need to carry onto the next level. The tenacity, finishing checks in the American League so he has the puck more.”

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As unique a player as he is, Bains’ story began like any other kid growing up in the Lower Mainland. He loved hockey, was surrounded by Canucks fans and dreamed of playing for his hometown team while working his way up through the local circuit.

But Bains didn’t get drafted to play in the WHL, a setback that threatened to kill his career in its infancy.

“I just kept training, didn’t matter I didn’t get drafted. You can take it two ways — you can just quit and be down, but I think it made me stronger,” he told Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi on April 1.

Fortunately for him, Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner, president and then head coach, invited him to camp for the 2017-18 season. It was a “perfect” situation: a place where he could grow his game under the mentorship of a member of one of hockey’s storied families.

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Bains was also bypassed in the NHL Entry Draft, something he expected to miss out on at the time.

“I still kept with it, I knew I could make it hopefully one day if I keep practising and training, and just trust in the coaches and everyone around me to push me and make me better.”

Vancouver Canucks prospect Arshdeep Bains (20) in action this season with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Arshdeep Bains (20) in action this season with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. Photo by Rob Wallator /Red Deer Rebels

What makes Arshdeep an even more exciting prospect for Canucks fans is his Punjabi background. The Indo-Canadian community is chock full of hockey fans — just drive by Scott Road and 72nd Avenue in Surrey during the playoffs for proof — and is beginning to be represented at the NHL level.

Bains is the fourth player of Punjabi descent to sign an NHL deal, behind Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira, Duncan’s Robin Bawa, and former Canuck Manny Malhotra, from Mississauga. Representation matters, and Bains wants to inspire the next wave of Indo-Canadian hockey players.

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“It’s important that we have role models to look up to, and if that’s what I can be — it’s everything to me,” he said.

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This past week, Bains assisted on the game-winning overtime goal in a 5-4 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday, then had a goal and two assists in a 6-4 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday. Bains’ goal came on the power play on a rebound in the slot.

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The Rebels have two games left in their season and are in third place in the Eastern Conference with a 44-18-2-2 record.

In addition to his 105 points, Bains is a plus-31 overall.

Vancouver Canucks Jack Rathbone in pre-game skate vs. Edmonton Oilers during NHL action at Rogers Arena on May 4, 2021.
Vancouver Canucks Jack Rathbone in pre-game skate vs. Edmonton Oilers during NHL action at Rogers Arena on May 4, 2021. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Jack Rathbone

He’s back in Abbotsford — and it’s like he never left.

Called up by Vancouver on an emergency basis on Tuesday, Jack Rathbone was back in the Fraser Valley on Friday to continue to dominate the AHL competition, scoring a goal and adding an assist in a 6-3 win over the San Diego Gulls.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound left-shot defenceman scored his goal on the power play midway through the second period on a powerful wrist shot from the point that eluded traffic in front of the net.

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With two points on the night, Rathbone extended his point streak to five games, with two goals and eight assists over that span.

The 22-year-old finished the game with five shots on net and a plus-1 rating.

Rathbone had his point streak snapped in a 5-2 win over the Gulls on Saturday, going even on the night with four shots on goal.

The dynamic defenceman has been everything — and more — that was expected of him this season, despite missing chunks of the campaign due to injury. Rathbone has 35 points (9G, 26A) in 32 games and has been solid in his defensive play at plus-6. He’ll need to continue to hone his play without the puck to stick with the big club next season.

“It’s been a weird season,” Rathbone said last week. “There’s been a lot of stop and go. I heard (head coach Trent Cull) mentioned it the other day that it’s tough trying to get into a rhythm.

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“I’m finally starting to feel like I am.”

All-in-all, Rathbone is the most NHL-ready prospect in the Canucks’ pipeline, and can feature prominently on the team for years to come — especially the power play. As Canucks fans debate whether they want Oliver Ekman-Larssen or Quinn Hughes running the power play, Rathbone could give them both a run for their money, in due time. He’s got Hughes’ mobility, while being able to get shots through, like OEL.

What neither of them have is a heavy, accurate slap shot like Jack has.

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Rathbone, the Canucks’ fourth round pick in 2017, is playing his best hockey of the season as the Canucks run hot heading into the playoffs. Abbotsford is in fourth-place in the eight-team Pacific Division with a 34-21-5-1 record. All but the bottom two teams in each division make the post-season. There are seven games left on the Canucks’ schedule.

Forward Danila Klimovich (46) of the Abbotsford Canucks.
Forward Danila Klimovich (46) of the Abbotsford Canucks. Photo by Aaron Provencio /PNG

Danila Klimovich

A goal, an assist and a new bride: not bad for a week in the life of Danila Klimovich.

Klimovich got hitched on Sunday, as the talented 19-year-old prospect was joined by his Abbotsford teammates in an outdoor ceremony.

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Vancouver forward Vasily Podkolzin was also there to support his friend, the Canucks’ 2021 second-round pick.

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Klimovich scored his eighth goal of the season in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Gulls, picking up a rebound in the slot and stuffing the puck into the net. He finished the game with one shot on goal and an even rating.

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The 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger also had a primary assist in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Gulls, his third point in his past four games.

Klimovich has had his ups and downs in his first season of North American hockey, playing throughout the Abbotsford lineup as he navigates the AHL as one of the league’s youngest players.

The Belarusian has eight goals, nine assists and a minus-5 rating in 55 games this season.

Vancouver Canucks prospect Joni Jurmo (#7) playing for Jukurit of the Finnish Liiga this season.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Joni Jurmo (#7) playing for Jukurit of the Finnish Liiga this season. Photo by Mikko Kankainen /Jukurit

Joni Jurmo

His season may be over, but this isn’t the last you’ll hear of Joni Jurmo.

The big, fast Finnish defensive prospect was back in the Mikkelin Jukurit lineup for a pair of playoff games this past week, but Jurmo’s No. 2-ranked team bowed out of the first round of the Liiga playoffs, losing their best-of-seven series 4-2 to No. 8-ranked KooKoo Kouvola.

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Jurmo, taken by the Canucks in the third round of the 2020 NHL entry draft, played in four playoff games, averaging around seven minutes of ice time per game. He went an even rating overall in the post-season and didn’t relinquish a goal while he was on the ice.

After averaging around 14 minutes per game this season, it may have been a disappointment for the 19-year-old to not get the same ice time in the playoffs. But after a season in which Jurmo played up and down the Jukurit lineup, registering 10 points (2G, 8A) and a plus-10 rating over 50 games, it’s clear the 6-foot-4, 198-pound D-man is on the right track developmentally.

Seen as a bit of a project defensively when he was drafted, Jurmo solidified his blue-line play this season, adding to his tantalizing combination of size, speed and puck skills.

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Jurmo is signed through next season with Jukurit, though it is unclear what plans the Canucks have for him. Another season in Finland, however, may be the most beneficial for his development.

Vancouver Canucks prospect Linus Karlsson (#94) reacts after scoring a goal for Skelleftea AIK in Swedish Hockey League action earlier this season.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Linus Karlsson (#94) reacts after scoring a goal for Skelleftea AIK in Swedish Hockey League action earlier this season. Photo by Jörgen Bergkvist /Skelleftea AIK

Linus Karlsson

The regular season is one thing.

The post-season? Well, that’s an entirely different beast for a rookie.

After breaking the Swedish Hockey League’s rookie goals record this season, Linus Karlsson is finding it harder to break through now that the playoffs are underway.

The 22-year-old has one assist in five playoff games so far for Skellefteå AIK, who trail their best-of-seven quarterfinal series 3-2 against Färjestad BK.

The lack of playoff production hasn’t been for a lack of trying for the 6-foot-1, 179-pound right-shot winger, who has 16 shots on goal in five playoff games.

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Karlsson has come close to scoring on several occasions, including hitting the post on a quick wrist shot from the slot in a 4-2 win on Saturday.

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Game 6 is set for Monday morning, pacific time.

(This section will be updated upon conclusion of Monday’s game).

Elsewhere: 18-year-old defensive prospect Jonathan Myrenberg (2021, Rd. 5) concluded his season on Saturday, winning the J20 Nationell’s championship trophy with Linkoping HC in a 5-2 win over Djurgårdens IF. Myrenberg, a 6-foot-2, 194-pound right-shot D-man with some offensive upside to his game, had four goals, four assists and a plus-5 rating in eight playoff games. He also played in 15 SHL games, going a plus-1 overall while registering no points.

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