The Los Angeles Kings grabbed a potentially elite offensive-defensemen by selecting Brandt Clarke with the eighth overall pick. We know that the Kings are in dire need of an offensive spark on their back end, and he brings exactly that. He fills a much-needed hole on the Kings blueline and might be ready for the NHL sooner than some expect. Let’s look at what Clarke brings and how he can help the team.
What Clarke Brings
The simple answer for what Clarke brings is offense. He was impressive in his rookie season with the Barrie Colts, posting 38 points in 57 games — fantastic production from a rookie. He also proved he could play with men last season, playing for HC Nove Zamky in the Slovakian first division. He loves jumping up into the play and creating odd-man rushes; he uses good offensive instincts and underrated skating to create these opportunities. His wrist shot is a deadly weapon for him and, after adding some muscle, we will see a big improvement in his slap shot. He has a quick release on both shots and is good at avoiding shot blocks. I’d expect him to be a powerplay quarterback once he reaches his full potential and for him to produce some big numbers offensively.
Defensively, he is still very good, however, he can become overly aggressive and pull himself out of position. He also struggles in the corners and in front of the net, as he lacks the muscle to impose himself physically. Fortunately, those are two easily fixable things. He uses his skating to keep good gap-control one-on-one and is rarely beat to loose pucks. I don’t expect him to develop into an elite defender, but I think he will be far from a liability in his own zone. If he can hammer out the deficiencies in his game, he could become an elite player in both zones. He is already adding muscle to his frame, which leads me to believe that he will be NHL ready sooner rather than later.
The one area in his game that receives a fair amount of criticism is his skating and I think this is unfair. His stride is goofy, and I think that gets mistaken for bad. When he skates, he stays very upright and has his feet far apart — because of this, he can look stiff and weak on his skates. The truth is far from that as he displays some of the best overall skating in the draft; his top speed, edgework, and acceleration are all top-notch. His skating is a huge asset as he excels in the transition game — frequently skating the puck out of his zone, evading forecheckers. He also is an excellent passer that can find his teammates extremely well both in the breakout and in the offensive zone. Most scouting reports compare him to Erik Karlsson, and I think that is a perfect comparison, look to a prime Karlsson if you want to get a sense of what Clarke brings.
Where He Fits in LA
Clarke is the perfect profile of player for the Kings. They desperately need a defenseman not named Drew Doughty to provide offense. Sean Walker does a decent job on the third pairing of providing offense, but the Kings need more. The only downside to Clarke is that he’s right-handed — as the Kings would have preferred a left shot. He will be a perfect understudy to Doughty and can seamlessly replace his offense in the future.
Expect Clark to spend at least the next season in the OHL and possibly one more. Fans should expect him to make the Kings roster by at least, 2023 and it could be sooner. He is likely to take on a second-pairing role and could be a fantastic partner for the more defensive-minded Tobias Bjornfot or Mikey Anderson. I would also expect him to quarterback the second power-play unit right away. He should be a long-term replacement for Doughty, as his skating and hockey IQ make him a likely candidate to eat up big minutes at the NHL level.
His selection does create a few dilemmas for the Kings, though. One is — what to do with your current right-shot defensive prospects. I imagine this pick leaves Brock Faber or Helge Grans without a long-term spot on the roster. It does give the team more freedom to trade either Matt Roy or Walker as they search for more help at forward. This is a good problem to have, but a problem the team will have to solve. It also creates a dilemma about acquiring the elite left-shot defensemen the team has been searching for. With Doughty signed through 2026-27 and Clarke likely needing a big contract before that date, it can complicate the acquisition of such a player. Paying three elite defensemen the money they’re worth could be financially crippling for the team. Rob Blake will have a big decision to make with how he navigates the long-term financial stability of this team after drafting Clarke.
Kings Get What They Need
Clarke was exactly what the team needed, an offensive-defensemen. They don’t currently have a defenseman who is a dynamic offense driving player outside of Doughty and Clarke will be exactly that. He also gives the team more freedom in the trade market. This was an amazing pick that adds to their already league-best prospect pool. The future has been bright in LA for a while now, and it just got brighter.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.