Brandt Clarke takes home hardware at AHL Skills with perfect performance in Accuracy Shooting, defeats brother in Puck Control race

It was a busy night for Brandt Clarke at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday night in San Jose, which saw him play a big role in the Western Conference defeating the Eastern Conference by competing in four events during the league’s annual showcase.

Clarke opened the night by defeating his brother in a head-to-head Puck Control Relay heat, then teamed up with Ethan Del Mastro of the Rockford IceHogs to score the most goals of any group in the Rapid Fire event before taking center stage in Accuracy Shooting.

The Kings prospect went 4-for-4 in the Accuracy Shooting competition, becoming just the fifth player in AHL league history to achieve the feat. Before David Gust did it in last year’s event in Laval while playing for Rockford, a perfect score had not been accomplished since forward Mike Santorelli did it in 2009. Clarke is the second Kings prospect to go 4-for-4, joining Gabe Gauthier, who won the competition in 2008 while playing for the Manchester Monarchs.

Clarke didn’t think too much about his technique or strategy before his perfect run.

“You just get hot,” Clarke said after the night’s events ended. “I just felt confident. “Before in my mind, I was like I just don’t want to be the guy that misses them all. I just wanted to do okay and not embarrass myself out there but then I hit the first one, hit the second one, was feeling good about myself and it was good to knock those other two in too but it’s all fun and games and it was a cool moment.”

His first win of the night came at the expense of his brother, Graeme, a New Jersey Devils prospect who is at the event representing the Utica Comets for whom he’s scored 34 points this season on 17 goals and 17 assists in 40 games.

The two were the last of four separate races in the Puck Control event, which meant they had to stand around and watch 14 other skaters complete the stickhandling course before stepping up to the goal line for a one-on-one showcase.

“We didn’t really have too much of a warmup and then they kind of just said you guys are going,” Clarke said. “We were kind of standing there for a while, even he said his legs were getting a little stiff, mine were getting a little stiff so I tried to lean against the boards and save my legs a little bit.”

It was a neck-and-neck race until the end when Graeme lost control of the puck and guided it into the final cone, giving Brandt the chance to cross the finish line with the win. It gave the Western Conference an additional point in the night’s competition, but more importantly, the younger brother has the clout against his sibling for now.

“Once you take off it’s just that maybe 20-second burst,” Clarke said. “You’re not even thinking, you’re just weaving through the cones and then I finally looked over at that last part to see how I was doing, and I saw he kind of fumbled the puck and gave me an extra step. “It’s cool to have those bragging rights.”

The moment wasn’t lost on the Kings’ former eighth overall selection, who remained on the ice well after the event ended to catch up with other players and spend time signing many autographs for fans in attendance from various AHL league markets.

“It flies by when you’re having a good time,” Clarke said. “It was enjoyable, I got to see a lot of familiar faces and got to make a lot of new friends. “It was a good time just to compete against these great players.”

You could tell the night meant a lot to him and he put the extra effort into chatting with fans in the stands. At one point, he skated over to the Western Conference bench and signed one of his sticks that he tossed to a younger fan, then gave away the AHL All-Star branded hat he wore during the competition to another admirer.

“It’s special and you want to make these kids’ days,” Clarke said. “I was that kid once and I wanted that from the players so I know the feeling. It’s all about them and I just want to make them enjoy it so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The only question left is whether he’ll have an encore performance left for Monday night’s 3-on-3 tournament. Teams representing the four league divisions will match up in a 3-on-3 round-robin format featuring six games of 10 minutes each. The two teams with the best records at the end of the round-robin will face off for the championship, a six-minute, 3-on-3 game.

The round-robin games begin at 6 p.m. PT and can be viewed on NHL Network and AHLTV.

A year ago in Laval, Quebec, Clarke’s teammate TJ Tynan led the event with six points on three goals and three assists as the Pacific Division emerged victorious from the competition. Tynan fell short of MVP honors, as the division’s netminders Lukas Dostal and Dustin Wolf ended up sharing the trophy.

“It’s going to be a good time,” Clarke said. “There’s a lot of good talent out here. It’s good to play with good players. There’s going to be a lot of nice plays being made and it’s going to be a fun time. I was just trying to gel today and I’m looking forward to it.”

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