LA Kings Prospect Profiles: Brandt Clarke

LA Kings Prospect Profiles Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, and Tobias Bjornfot

Brandt Clarke

2020-21 Team: HC Nove Zamky
Date of Birth: February 9, 2003
Place of Birth: Nepean, Ontario, Canada
Ht: 6-foot-2
Wt: 185 pounds
Shoots: Right
Position: D
Acquired: 2021 NHL Draft #8 overall

Brandt Clarke Bio

Brandt Clarke played his midget hockey with the Don Mills Flyers of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, and in his U16 season, he put up an astounding 54 goals and 113 assists in 106 games. His performance caught the attention of the Barrie Colts, who drafted him fourth overall at the 2019 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Brandt Clarke Barrie Colts
Brandt Clarke of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Clarke scored six goals and 32 assists in 57 games in his first season with the Colts. He then headed overseas for his pre-draft season to play on loan with HC Nove Zamky, scoring five goals and ten assists in a 26-game campaign. The Los Angeles Kings selected him with their first-round pick, eighth overall, in the 2021 NHL Draft. He was a crucial selection, as LA’s defensive pipeline isn’t quite as impressive as their arguably league-best forward group. 

Scouting Report

Clarke is known for his offensive talent. He sees the ice like few players do, giving him the ability to execute plays that most think aren’t there. He is incredibly patient with the puck and always tries his best to make a play rather than just chip the puck out of the defensive zone or into the offensive zone. He can do this thanks to his agile skating, which allows him to make tight turns in the corners to escape high-pressure situations.

Clarke’s offensive skills are undeniable, but he still has work to do. His defensive game isn’t nearly as complete; his zone coverage needs work, as he sometimes loses his man in search of an opportunity to get up ice. That said, defensive capabilities can always be developed, so it shouldn’t be a big concern, especially given everything else he brings.

NHL Projection

Clarke has the most upside of any player in the Kings’ defensive system, making him a big part of their future. He is expected to play on the right side on LA’s future first pair. Tobias Bjornfot is his likely partner; Bjornfot’s shutdown style should complement Clarke’s offensive mindset. Clarke can also run the power play, and many predict that he will serve as the successor to Drew Doughty and quarterback the first unit.

Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Not only is Clarke set to take over for Doughty as the Kings’ top defenseman, but their style of play has often been compared to each other. Clarke has also been likened to other offensively gifted defensemen like Erik Karlsson and Dougie Hamilton

Those defensemen were—and, in the case of Hamilton, still are—among the best in the league. Doughty is a former 60-point player, a two-time Stanley Cup champion—in 2012 and 2014—and won the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 2016. Karlsson has recorded over 80 points in a single season, winning the Norris twice in 2012 and 2015.

Unlike Doughty and Karlsson, Hamilton is an elite defenseman right now. He recently signed a seven-year, $63 million contract with the New Jersey Devils, carrying a $9 million average annual value (AAV). Clarke has the skill to match the impact these three players had on their team, potentially making him the Kings’ next franchise defenseman.

Quotables

If there’s an opportunity to join the rush, he does it; if there isn’t, he creates one and joins anyway.

EPRinkside.com

Smarts and sound decision making are both qualities that Clarke can reveal throughout the entirety of his shifts. He’s a confident, decisive puck carrier who constantly scans the ice to his front and rear regardless of whether or not he has the puck.

Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst

He’s not your typical smooth, flow-y skater, but I think that lends to the deception that he plays with. I think that at times, opponents will think they’ve got him in a spot where they can check him, and he seems to find a way to get out of it. I don’t see it as as big of an issue as what some people do.

From ‘What prospect Brandt Clarke’s skating questions mean for the NHL team that drafts him,’ The Athletic, July 1, 2021

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