The Barrie Colt’s Brandt Clarke is the type of prospect the LA Kings have never had and the one they need.
In the last few years, the LA Kings have gone into the NHL Draft with one strategy in mind, grab the best player available. And it has paid off. Heading into this year’s selection process, that strategy was once again implemented.
With the eighth overall pick in the 2021 Entry Draft, the Kings and Director of Player Scouting Mark Yannetti had a few players in mind they would be able to grab. But there was one player that would fill a void in the current crop of the King’s elite prospect pool, and that was Brandt Clarke.
Yannetti said it best during his post-draft media availability, “He is something we’ve never had.”
Los Angeles has plenty of good to great defensive prospects currently in the system, but as Yannetti said, none have the offensive capabilities of Clarke. And that is something very much missing from the pool of young talent.
One of my favorite things to watch with Clarke is his ability to escape pressure in his own zone and make the right first pass.
This is a pretty simple example of how Clarke can get away from a forechecker. Even with his back turned, he senses the oncoming Swedish forward, makes a simple turn away, and feeds the puck up, making the right pass.
This is my favorite example of Clarke’s ability to control play in the defensive zone. His puck control and the way he seems to accelerate after each turn his fun to watch—a lot of similarities between Drew Doughty and Clarke in this clip. Drew has always shown the ability to skate away from pressure, but not sure he ever had the speed Clarke exudes.
Another great skill Clarke has is the ability to get shots through from the blueline. A trait much needed for an offensive defenseman to excel in the NHL and something that has lacked from the Kings since the loss of Alec Martinez.
If you notice, Clarke never has his head down, and it’s always toward the net. Using his feel and vision, he’s able to get shots through with accuracy and precision. In the second video, he subtly shows some nice footwork to get himself in a proper shooting position. Great skills to possess to be a power-play quarterback in the future.
Clarke’s aggressive, offensive game can sometimes get his team into trouble, but it is damn fun to watch.
He’s never afraid to have his presence know below the opponent’s redline. And even though he doesn’t score in this clip, you have to enjoy his ambition in trying “The Michigan.”
Brandt lives to take the puck into the slot, and he’s great at it. Positioning himself in the slot allows him the ability to either shoot or pass it off to his teammates near the circles.
Brandt Clarke was the 4th dman taken in the 2021 NHL draft. Probably should have been the 1st one taken. pic.twitter.com/kwmFywlCos
— Byron Bader (@ByronMBader) July 26, 2021
#GoKingsGo select Brandt Clarke 8th overall. I ranked him 5th overall, and 1st among defensemen.
Clarke scored at a very respectable rate against grown men in Slovakia and a point per game in the U18 World Championships. That’s what you like to see from a high picked defenseman. pic.twitter.com/ltGaRRioM7
— Patrick Bacon (@TopDownHockey) July 24, 2021
Clarke has all the makings to be the number one defenseman for the LA Kings, but there’s still time to develop his game in the junior leagues. With the OHL returning to play for the upcoming 2021-22 season, he’ll head back to join the Barrie Colts. Look for him to grow from his 38 point campaign in the 2019-20 season.
When December rolls around, look for him to be one of Team Canada’s number one offensive weapons on the blueline for the 2022 World Junior tournament. An event that will once again include a large number of Kings prospects.
I feel Clarke’s talent this upcoming season will persuade Kings management that he will be ready for the ‘big-leagues’ sooner rather than later. And although there might be a bit of a logjam on the right side of LA’s defense, for the time being, there might be a chance we see him on the Kings roster come to the start of the 2022 NHL season.