With the eighth selection of the 2021 NHL Draft, the Los Angeles Kings have selected Brandt Clarke from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
In a confusing and disorienting year around the hockey world and the world at large, many draft prospects had less-than-ideal seasons to showcase their talents. Clarke, a 6-foot-2, right-handed defenseman, could not play for the Barrie Colts, with the OHL season put on hold, so he traveled to HC Nove Zamky in Slovakia and got in 26 games there. However, he did shine at the U18 World Junior Championship, where he managed seven points in seven games.
At the top of the draft class, there are several high-profile, left-handed defensemen, but Clarke stands above other righties as the best at his position, and he is one of the best puck-moving defensemen in the draft. Though gangly and a bit awkward-looking in appearance, make no mistake — he is one of the most polished and mature players in this draft.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
“What could set Clarke ahead of other defensive prospects in this draft is the fact that he’s a right-handed defenceman – a position sought after by a number of teams. That, on top of the fact that he’s a mobile defenceman who isn’t afraid to create and join the rush, and you’re looking at a defensive prospect that could push the boundaries of what some teams will expect from him.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
“His skating is exceptional. He has a good first-step and can reach top speed quicker than many of the other top defensive prospects in this draft. He’s quick on his edges and can make defensive plays before turning the puck back up ice on a dime.
“Defensively, he has some room to grow. His speed helps him in puck battles and racing opponents to the loose puck. Still, he can have lapses in his own end at times and that will simply come with developing his game at the professional level against men. While that could be one of the few things that Clarke can be criticized for, it’s not enough to turn teams away.
“In fact, his offensive ability and size combine to make him a very solid pick in the top five of the 2021 NHL Draft. Depending on how well he develops the rest of his game, Clarke could be a top-pairing defenceman at some point in his career. He’s a talent that could potentially be a game-changer for a franchise and has shown ability in all facets of the game. What it will come down to is how well he can continue to grow with the pressure of being a top-five pick looming over him.”
How This Affects the Kings’ Plans
Despite some conjecture that missing an OHL season was the best thing for him, Clarke will still need seasoning and won’t make the jump to the NHL immediately. that should work for the Kings, who already have a full right side with Drew Doughty, Matt Roy, and Sean Walker. Few situations could have been better for Clarke, as he joins a young team on the rise with a perfect NHL mentor in Doughty.
Clarke could be similar to Tobias Björnfot, who is now 20 and likely to be an NHL regular very soon. Both are smooth-skating, undersized puck-movers who will add a lot of punch to the Kings, especially on the power play. For Los Angeles, an embarrassment of riches in their prospect pipeline only gets richer with this pick.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.