In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I’ll be discussing 2021 first-round pick Brandt Clarke’s suspension in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), some trade news heading into the deadline, and the return of Alex Edler.
Brandt Clarke Suspended Eight Games
On Saturday, Mar. 12, the OHL announced that Brandt Clarke would be suspended indefinitely for a hit on Hamilton Bulldogs forward (and Montreal Canadiens draft pick) Jan Mysak. Most were upset with the decision as it looked like a clean check. Fans were even more upset on Tuesday when it was revealed that Clarke’s suspension had been changed from indefinitely, to an eight-game suspension, which most people felt was unwarranted.
From this angle, Clarke seems to be simply delivering a heavy hit to an opponent with his head down, and it’s hard to see where the suspension comes from. However, from the back angle, it becomes a bit clearer.
Here it’s clear that Clarke makes contact with Mysak’s head, which is why the suspension was issued. Of course, there’s a case for Clarke that Mysak has his head down and Clarke is bigger, which caused the contact to the head. While this all may be true, it doesn’t really matter; the OHL has cracked down heavily on head contact, and this was a reasonable suspension.
It’s unfortunate for Clarke, who did not throw this hit with malicious intent and didn’t target the head (from what I can tell), but the reality is, he caught Mysak in the head, which warrants a suspension by league safety standards. While disappointing, this isn’t the end of the world for Clarke. He’ll come back and dominate after these eight games before pushing for a spot on the Kings roster this summer.
I don’t condone suspendable hits, but it’s nice to see Clarke engage physically. He’s thrown a few big hits this season, which I wouldn’t have expected of him. We won’t see these hits in the NHL anytime soon, but it seems to be a new element to his game. The future is bright for the Kings, and Clarke is at the center of that future.
Kings Trade News
The rumor mill has been quiet when it comes to the Kings, with most reporters suggesting that the team isn’t planning any big moves before the Monday deadline and will instead make a splash this summer. However, one name that still pops up is Arizona Coyote’s defenseman Jakob Chychrun, but I think any deal for him is dead at this point.
On the back of the Ben Chiarot deal that sent him to the Flordia Panthers on Wednesday, instead of setting the market and opening the floodgates for deadline trades, I think this deal will have slammed the door shut on a potential Chychrun deal. If Chiarot is worth a first and fourth-round pick, plus a B prospect, I can’t even imagine the price for Chychrun.
A deal for Chychrun already seemed impossible because the Coyotes are asking for a massive haul for him, but any sliver of hope I had is now gone. Perhaps the Kings can circle back to him during the offseason, but I don’t know that the price will come down. Chychrun’s availability always seemed odd, and reports might have been exaggerated. I’m not saying the Coyotes aren’t listening to offers, but it seemed like Chychrun had one foot out the door, and I don’t think that is the case. This is not a Jack Eichel situation, where the Buffalo Sabres had to sell their top asset, as many might assume.
Again, maybe things will change over the summer. But unless someone is willing to way overpay for him, I wouldn’t expect Chychrun to be traded any time soon. One thing we know about general manager Rob Blake is that he’s very conservative in the trade market, and he has not shown that willingness to overspend on a player. I wouldn’t expect that to change with Chychrun, and I’m beginning to think the Kings may look elsewhere for the young, dynamic, left-shot defenseman we keep hearing about.
Alex Edler Returns to Practice
On Tuesday, the Kings finally got some good news on the injury front. Edler returned to full practice for the first time since he broke his ankle in early Dec. This is huge, as their blue line has been decimated by injuries recently. They played Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche without a single starting defenseman from their opening night roster. Before going down, Edler was one of the team’s best defensemen and played a massive role during Drew Doughty’s injury.
When he does return, and everyone is healthy, Olli Maatta can become the seventh defenseman once again, despite that he’s played well recently and provided depth on the back end. Edler will also bring back size and experience to the blue line, major assets that the team needed when they signed him. He will also bring a small boost of offense, as he is still the team’s fourth-leading scorer among defensemen, despite missing more than half the season. Maatta has played well, but Edler will be a huge upgrade, and another reason the Kings don’t need to panic-buy a defenseman before the deadline.
Expect a Quite Few Days
Most NHL headlines will be covering the trade deadline until Monday, and I don’t expect the Kings to feature that much. The front office appears to be confident in the group they have and don’t want to mess with the chemistry they have built. While this may not be fun for fans, who love the possibility of a big, game-changing, trade, it’s a smart decision. There will be a time to make blockbuster trades, and it could be as early as this summer.
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.