This was the first THW Mock Draft I had ever been a part of, and what a year to hop on board, with all the uncertainty surrounding the first overall pick and CHL hockey being in jeopardy all year. I’m typically a Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for The Hockey Writers, but since that club doesn’t have a first-round pick, I had to take my talents to another team. Well..two actually, but I’m not going to spoil anything.
The first team I drafted for and the team I will be focusing on in this article is the Los Angeles Kings. As the draft progressed, all of the usual suspects were taken. Matthew Beniers went first overall to Buffalo, Owen Power went second overall to Seattle, and names like Dylan Guenther, Jesper Wallstedt, and Luke Hughes rounded out the top seven. When the Kings were on the clock at eighth overall, there was one name that stuck out above the rest, and it made my decision easy. On behalf of the Kings, I selected defenseman Brandt Clarke from HC Nove Zamky of the Slovakian League.
What Clarke Brings to the Kings
Should Clarke be available at eighth overall and should the Kings select him in real life, they would be getting a player who, ideally, would eventually receive the torch passed by Drew Doughty. Like some of his fellow OHL prospects such as Brennan Othmann and Francesco Pinelli, Clarke spent his draft year playing overseas, with the OHL season being cancelled. He finished the season with 15 points in 26 games for HC Nove Zamky.
Related: THW’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Clarke is a swift-moving offensive defenseman with good size, standing at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. The Ottawa native has explosive speed and has a top-tier hockey IQ. He’s also a very unpredictable player, never sticking to the same strategy be it in the offensive zone or the defensive zone.
If the Kings opt to go with Clarke at eighth overall, they’ll have one of the more dangerous one-two punches on the right side of the defensive core. Doughty obviously isn’t anywhere close to retirement, but when the time comes for him to hang up the skates or just go to a different team, Clarke will more than likely be ready to absorb that role. He still has some room to grow defensively, but he has all of the tools to be a top-pairing defenseman.
Kings Have Opportunity to Expand Their Prospect Pool
The Kings have quietly assembled one of the best prospect pools in the league over the past few years. They’re drafted an abundance of forward prospects including second-overall pick Quinton Byfield in 2020, fifth-overall pick Alex Turcotte in 2019, and 20th-overall pick Rasmus Kupari in 2018. Filling in the cracks include players like Akil Thomas, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, and Arthur Kaliyev.
But you know what they say, offense wins games, defense wins championships. Of course, the Kings know this better than anybody, as they won two Stanley Cups with an elite defensive team. While LA has added some solid players on the back end through the draft including Tobias Bjornfot and Helge Grans, they don’t really have a blue-chip defensive prospect. Clarke would be just that for the Kings, and would give them a top-three prospect pool in the league without question.
The Kings are on their way back up as quickly as they plummeted, and they could very well be a dark horse to make the playoffs in 2021-22. Should they draft Clarke, he’ll become a massively crucial piece on the back end and join the future young core that features the likes of Byfield, Turcotte, and Kupari. Considering some mock drafts have had Clarke as a potential top-five pick, getting him at eighth overall would be a steal.
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2005 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Maple Leafs Lounge Podcast, presented by THW. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.