Among those participating at LA Kings’ Development Camp this week is 2021 first-rounder Brandt Clarke. He spoke to the media after Day 2.
When the NHL’s Draft Lottery came and went in early June, there was a palpable sense of disappointment surrounding the LA Kings‘ fanbase as they landed the No. 8 pick in the first round of the upcoming Draft. While No. 8 is certainly a good spot, some followers of the silver-and-black were hoping for a Top 5 pick for their team — even if the odds stack in their favour. Nevertheless, the Kings had their pick and six weeks later, they made the most of that pick, selecting blue-chip defenseman Brandt Clarke from the OHL’s Barrie Colts.
As expected, Clarke is one of the club’s prospects on hand this week in El Segundo for the Kings’ Development Camp. On Tuesday, following Day 2 of camp, the 18-year-old spoke with the media, sounding as excited as he was when the Kings drafted him last month.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” Clarke said of his arrival to Los Angeles. “Ever since the night I got drafted, I’ve been thinking about coming out here. It’s everything I could have dreamed of. Amazing facility, great organization. Everyone’s been so nice to me, so welcoming. I’ve had a great experience here, so far. I’m looking forward to being here for a really long time. I’m really fortunate to be an L.A. King.”
While he is certainly eager for the scrimmage on Friday and the Future Stars Skills Competition & Open House at STAPLES Center on Saturday, Clarke is taking development camp one day — one moment, even — at a time. At this juncture, it is imperative for the Ottawa native not to put the proverbial cart before the horse and just focus on the present.
“I just want to play my game.” a matter-of-fact Clarke said. “I just want [to be] a good teammate and listen to the coaches, just be a good person and make a good impression for myself and, yeah. But, when it comes to game time and the scrimmages, when we do have practices or the actual scrimmage we have at the end of the week, I want to perform, I want to do my thing, I want to impress. So, that’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to having a fun week. It’s been really good so far and yeah. So, [the development staff] planned some stuff for us — I did go to beach one day, too — so I’m looking forward to it. It’s awesome.”
The defenseman also took some time to discuss which area(s) he needs to address most if hopes to contend for a roster spot with the big club in the foreseeable future.
“I feel like I want to get stronger,” Clarke noted. “I feel like I have good size, but if you want to play in the best league in the world, you can’t be a small kid out there. You have to be a big presence, especially on the blue line, so I just want to fill out.
While he does stand at 6’2″, Clarke’s 190-pound frame could use some work.
“I want to be a presence in front of the net — pushing guys away, clearing screens from the front of the net, knocking guys down in the corners,” added the determined defenseman. “That’s kind of what I want to do. Being stronger will help me in many elements of the game, so that’s what I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on this summer.”
While he may be poised to contend for a roster spot with the big club for opening night, nothing is set in stone in regards to Brandt Clarke and his immediate future with the Kings. He did, however, recently sign an ELC with the club. Nevertheless, Clarke was asked how much conversation there has been between him and the Kings as far as plans for the upcoming season have been.
“Not much,” the blueliner admitted. “I think those are conversations to be had in the future. I don’t really know what the expectations are right now. I don’t know what– that probably comes into me showing how I am this week, showing how I handle myself in person, showing how I can play with these, these older guys. That’s probably what [the development staff is] kind of examining right now, that’s [what the] people in charge are kind of taking notes of right now. So, there’s nothing really– no expectations have been laid out for me so far, no set plan is laid out for me so far, but it’s probably coming pretty soon.”
While this past year-and-a-half has come with its share of challenges, there was one particular silver lining for North American prospects like Clarke. Due to the Canadian Hockey League either limiting or suspending the action of their leagues, those with CHL teams were forced to look elsewhere for playing time. For Brandt Clarke, that came in the form of HC Nové Zámky in Slovakia.
Clarke’s time in Europe was a promising one, to say the least. When I spoke to the 18-year-old’s head coach, Imre Valášek, last month, he was glowing about Clarke and his play, as well as his leadership skills. But, just the experience itself of playing professionally was enough to give the Barrie Colt a leg up at this week’s development camp.
“Yeah, I’d say it did. To hear those people actually speak the language, that’s pretty–that’s a lot more convenient,” Clarke responded with a chuckle. “But no, playing [in Slovakia] was a lot of fun. They were a great team, but yeah, I was just kind of dropping in. No one really knew who I was when I went over there — like, they didn’t really know my name or anything like that — [I was just] another guy in the dressing for them. So, [I had] to earn their respect. So, yeah, I had to work hard over there and I think that just– that has calmed me in a new scenario like this. I’ve been in a situation where there are a lot of eyes on me and I’ve been in the situation where there’s not many eyes on me. So, I think that just kind of– I’ve seen both sides of the page and I can kind of just set my head in and just be relaxed and just kind of focus on the task at hand, whether that be performing in the gym, like if we had workout, or just completing all the drills to the best of my ability on the ice. So, yeah, I feel like the overseas experience did help me a lot and will continue to help me in the future.”
Just two months ago, the LA Kings had a bright future that didn’t need much tweaking. However, thanks in large part to Brandt Clarke’s addition to the mix, the silver-and-black’s future is even more auspicious — and that’s no fluke. So, whether we see him in a Kings uniform this coming season or not, Brandt Clarke is already proving — from his play and from his attitude — just how integral a figure he is into his new club’s full-steam progression.