Last month, Brandt Clarke was selected by the Kings, eighth overall, in the 2021 NHL Draft. Today, he signs the first contract of his career, inking a three-year, entry-level contract that carries an AAV of $925,000 at the NHL level.
Clarke, 18, registered 15 points (5-10=15) and a plus-6 rating in 26 games last season with the HC Nove Zamky in Slovakia. Prior to playing overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he played with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-2, 190-pound defenseman posted 38 points (6-32=38) in 57 games during his OHL rookie season with Barrie in 2019-20. He led all rookie defensemen in points and assists and finished second in goals. He ranked fourth on the Colts in points and second in assists, leading team-defensemen in both categories.
Clarke, naturally, marks the first member of the Kings 2021 draft class to sign an entry-level deal. At 18-years-old, Clarke is not eligible to play in the American Hockey League this season, which limits him to either the NHL or the OHL, where he’d return as a member of the Barrie Colts. The 2020 Draft Class currently has just two players – Quinton Byfield and Helge Grans – signed to NHL contracts as of this writing, and getting Clarke under contract so soon marks an early win for the organization, giving them and Clarke the ultimate flexibility.
The 6-2 defenseman provides an offensive mindset and skillset from the backend. Clarke isn’t necessarily your typical build for that type of player, standing over six-feet tall, he’s not your smaller than average blueliner. Standing a decent size, Clarke is skilled both skating and moving the puck. He’s known for his quick outlet passes, and vision in choosing the right recipient, but also for his craftiness when skating with the puck.
“I pride myself on getting pucks up quick, I pride myself on making good first passes, but I do have that creative asset,” Clarke said, following the draft. “I can throw those fakes in to throw forwards off sometimes or throw those fakes in to get shots through from the point. I feel like that’s just something I’m good at, like I said I’m poised and patient with the puck.”
Clarke was targeted by the Kings throughout the draft process, with the organization quite happy to see him available when their pick came up at number eight. Clarke has been regarded well by those in the analytics community, frequently ranking higher in those spheres than eighth overall.
Kings Director of Scouting Mark Yannetti has frequently talked about his desire to add elite traits to the organization through the draft, and with adding players that give the organization different options. Clarke presents something for the Kings organization, through his offensive abilities from the backend.
“If you go to Clarke, he’s something we’ve never had,” Yannetti said. “The style of play, the offense-driving, offense-first, borderline dynamic, offensive defenseman. Clarke is something different. I don’t want to compare guys, I don’t think that’s the fair thing, but what Clarke is, is something we haven’t had. He’s an offense-generating player. He can generate offense through transition, he can generate it individually, he can generate it on the blueline, all three ways.”
Looking ahead, the Barrie Colts season doesn’t begin until Thursday, October 7, which gives the Kings plenty of options, at this time, regarding Clarke. While the Kings appear pretty set on the right side of the blueline at the senior level, NHL training camp begins three weeks before the OHL season begins, meaning the Kings can choose to keep Clarke around professional players for a longer stretch if they so choose, through a potential rookie camp and eventual main training camp, giving him a chance to assimilate and even make some waves in doing so.