Kicking off the month of June with some news regarding Brandt Clarke, who was honored this afternoon by the Canadian Hockey League.
Clarke was one of six players across the OHL, WHL and QMJHL to be selected to the CHL’s First All-Star team as one of the two best defensemen across major junior hockey in Canada. The CHL had not selected formal All-Star teams since the 2009-10 season, with the return this season adding to Clarke’s list of accolades from the 2022-23 campaign. Clarke was the runner-up for the OHL’s Max Kaminsky Trophy, an award presented annually to the OHL’s Defenseman of the Year, as voted by the league’s General Managers. Clarke likely would have won that award had he played a full season in the OHL, but his time in the NHL, AHL and World Juniors delayed his OHL debut until early-January.
As far as this award goes, it truly says how special Clarke’s play was when you consider that he only played 31 games in the OHL during the regular season. Clarke’s offensive totals finished exactly one point shy of a two points-per-game pace, finishing with a total of 61. The same can be said of his playoff performance, as he amassed 23 points from 12 games played. Though his team was eliminated in Round 2, Clarke finished seventh in overall playoff scoring, the only player in the Top 12 with fewer than 20 games played. In the regular season, his 23 goals were two shy of the league league amongst defensemen, despite playing in 28 fewer games than the league leader. He finished fifth in points, despite playing in 34 fewer games than the player directly behind him. It’s impossible to forecast what a full season might have looked like, but he was trending at well over a 100-point pace, which the OHL had not seen since 2011.
From the league’s official release –
Despite only making his season debut on Jan. 12, Barrie Colts defenceman Brandt Clarke (LA) is named to the blue line after he recorded 61 points in just 31 games. Clarke’s 23 goals were fourth most in the OHL while his 1.97 point-per-game average was the second best by a defenceman in OHL history. The 20-year-old, who was named to the CHL Team of the Month on two occasions, tallied a +40 rating and registered three hat-tricks. Clarke began the season in the NHL and played nine games with L.A.
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) June 1, 2023
Clarke’s recognition comes at the end of what will be his final season playing junior hockey. Entering his age-20 season, Clarke will be a full-time professional at either the NHL or AHL level. Clarke did not look out of place in his nine-game sample with the Kings this season and will come to training camp in the fall to compete for a roster spot at the NHL level. He’ll likely be given every opportunity to earn one, though as the roster stands right now, there will be competition for those jobs at the most crowded area of the roster.
Kings General Manager Rob Blake on Clarke’s Next Steps
Clarke will be the player that will be a pro for the whole season, he would be the new defenseman coming in full-time. There’s not the nine-game, ten-game issue next year, he steps in and becomes a pro full time……he’s eligible for both [the NHL and AHL]. I think the way he played those nine games, it was a difficult decision at that time. He went down and did everything possibly asked of him in the OHL and throughout the playoffs. I expect him to compete for a spot to help this team.
Clarke is one of the team’s most exciting prospects coming through the system and seeing him in the conversation to be a full-time NHL player right out of the gates is encouraging in itself. Should he separate himself from a group that already features several players at his position, to the extent that it earns him a roster spot, he’ll certainly have earned it. If not, look no further than another promising first round defenseman selected from the OHL – Evan Bouchard – about what a season in the AHL can do in the development process. Back-to-back 40-point seasons later, Bouchard has arrived with the Oilers, as Kings fans well know. Either path is viable and the Kings will choose the one that makes the most sense for both player and team.
Either way, good to see a Kings prospect recognized for his play, at any level. And a nice piece of news that is not a season in review!