The Western Hockey League announced its award winners on Wednesday, and a pair of promising Kings prospects figured prominently. Kale Clague, who recently completed his 19-year-old season and will make the jump to professional hockey next season, won the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the league’s top defenseman and was named an Eastern Conference First Team All-Star, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who completed his 18-year-old season and is expected to return to the Spokane Chiefs, was named a Western Conference First Team All-Star.
Clague joined the Ontario Reign at the end of the season but didn’t get into a game as he dealt with both illness and the requisite wear-and-tear a body goes through after participating in a major junior season, a World Junior Championship and two rounds of the WHL playoffs. With his skill set ably suited for the modern game, he’ll be among those looking to make an impression at training camp, but given the logjam on Los Angeles’ blue line, especially on the left side, where 23-year-old Dan Brickley was recently signed, he’s more likely to begin his pro career with AHL-Ontario.
In his fourth full WHL season, Clague split time between the Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings. In 54 regular season appearances, the product of Lloydminster, Alta., posted a career-high 71 points (11G-60A), good enough to finish in a tie for third in scoring among all WHL defencemen. Selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round (51st overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft, Clague helped Canada to a gold medal at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. Clague was originally selected by the Wheat Kings in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In 195 career WHL games, Clague has 167 points (26G-141A) to his name.
Anderson-Dolan totaled 40 goals and 91 points in helping lead the Spokane Chiefs back to the WHL Playoffs after a one-year hiatus. He’s more than just an offensive catalyst; there’s a good mix of responsible play, speed and checking inherent in his game. Jarret Stoll and the Kings visted Anderson-Dolan throughout the season, and the former Kings center was impressed with the work ethic and level of detail built into the center prospect’s game.
“He just gets a lot of scoring chances,” Stoll said in November.. “He’s always around the puck. He’s very tenacious on the puck on the forecheck. He’s got a very good stick. He’s not like Pavel Datsyuk, but good with his stick where he got a lot of steals on the forecheck. I think he had seven or eight shots that night and probably could’ve had two or three goals. He had one that night. Just has that offensive instinct to find the puck and know where to be. It’s no surprise that he racks up a lot of points there.”
He joined the Ontario Reign after Spokane was eliminated from the playoffs and appeared in five regular season games and three postseason games, totaling two assists, but will be a 19-year-old next season who was drafted out of major junior hockey, which means that he’s only eligible to play in the NHL or be returned to major junior. He’ll go back to the Chiefs, which, if they bank on the returns of first round draft pick Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton) and 2018 to-be first round draft pick Ty Smith, could assemble a top Pacific Division team that should challenge for the league lead in scoring. Anderson-Dolan is at least one year away from seriously contending for a roster spot with Los Angeles. Let’s talk about his chances one year from now.
And, because yesterday was the WHL Draft, did you think I was going to leave you hanging without this:
My 2018 fave #DubNames:
— Sunaya Sapurji (@sunayas) May 3, 2018
When I was working in the Dub, and the players were born a decade or so earlier, it seemed there were a lot of Tylers and Taylors. Apparently “Cage” and “Trentyn” were the rage among Western Canadians born in 2003.
-Lead photo via Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images