Called up from Ontario, defenseman Kale Clague will get another opportunity to prove himself with the LA Kings.
In perhaps one of the more surprising moves during training camp, the LA Kings sent defenseman Kale Clague down to the Ontario Reign to begin the season. Clague, drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, has played up and down with the NHL and AHL clubs over the last two seasons, with an 18-game look last year. In his most recent stint, the 23-year-old accumulated six assists, four PIM, and a -6.
His offensive game has never been in question.
Coming up through junior hockey, Clague tallied 10 goals with 37 assists in only 28 games while wearing the “A” for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL during the 2017-18 campaign. In his first year with the Reign, he had seven goals and 29 points, but at the expense of a -20. Through the first five games of Ontario’s season, Clague has four assists and a +2, playing remarkably better on the defensive side of the puck.
“Ontario – the team is rolling,” Clague said on Wednesday. “There’s so much talent. There’s lots of guys sitting out on every given night that should be playing big minutes; that’s just how much depth there is down there. My game, personally, I think I started well. I’ve been keeping it fairly simple and finding my groove. [I’m] looking forward ahead to this opportunity; I’m really excited.”
With the recent injuries to Drew Doughty and Sean Walker on the NHL roster, Clague was recalled from Ontario, and he’s expected to have perhaps the longest look of his young career. Doughty will miss approximately eight weeks while Walker is done for the season. Both players are right-shot defensemen, a position that Clague, a left-shot defenseman, has previously played.
There’s a potential that Clague could draw in along the left side in place of Olli Maatta, but his versatility will be key while the Kings navigate these uncharted waters.
On Wednesday, Clague was getting touches on the powerplay in practice, setting the stage for him to take Sean Walker’s role on the second powerplay unit. Between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, the Regina, SK native had a combined seven goals on the man advantage with Ontario. Now, he’ll have the chance to prove he can be a meaningful contributor for the Kings in that department.
“I think I have to start earning the trust of the coaching staff,” he said. “They should be able to look at me and feel comfortable putting me out there on the ice. A little bit of powerplay touches today in practice, and if I get out there, on the powerplay, I want to make sure I make the most of it and use my assets – my skating, my vision, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Clague was re-signed to a one-year contract and will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. He was also passed over in Seattle’s expansion draft. However, this latest call-up has a ‘now or never’ feel for the young defenseman, given the potential to play at the NHL level for nearly two months.
In 22 career games with the Kings, Clague has a combined -9 and has not shot the puck on net much. He’s been sent back down for improvements to his defensive game as he turned the puck over seven times in the 18 games played last year.
“You learn from the guys around – guys like Dewey [Drew Doughty] and all the D, really, the older guys. I’ve made mistakes on previous call-ups, like netplay,” Clague admitted. “I go down to Ontario and work on those things and be better for it.”
Clague and the Kings host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, with puck drop set for 7:30 pm PT.