NHL Draft Profile: Brandt Clarke, Defenseman

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a nine-game series looking at the Blue Jackets’ potential draft prospects. Columbus has three first-round picks: No.5, No.24 and No.31 overall.

Part 1: Owen Power

Part 2: Matty Béniers

Part 3: Luke Hughes

Today: Brandt Clarke

When Brandt Clarke is drafted into the NHL, he will be announced as an OHL Barrie Colts selection. But that doesn’t even begin to explain how Clarke spent last season.

After not being invited to Canada’s selection camp for the World Junior Under-20 Championships, and with the OHL season looking unlikely, Clarke went looking for a team so he could continue playing.

This research led him to HC Nové Zámky in the Slovak Extraliga, more than 4,000 miles from his hometown of Ottawa. Clarke played 26 games in Slovakia before returning to North America for the World Under-18 Championships in April, where he was named to the tournament’s all-star team and won a gold medal.

Here’s what you need to know about Clarke, a defenseman ranked seventh on the NHL’s Central Scouting North American skaters list:

Position: Defense

Size weight: 6’2, 185 lbs.

Shooting : Right

Date of Birth: February 9, 2003

Hometown: Ottawa, Ont., CAN

Team: HC Nové Zámky

Total points 2020-21: 5 goals, 10 assists in 26 games

Brandt Clarke of the Barrie Colts during the 2019-20 OHL season.

Widely regarded as one of the best offensive defensemen in the draft, Clarke’s skill with the puck stands out in almost every shift. But in Slovakia, his team didn’t have a lot of attacking talent, and he quickly learned he needed to hone his defensive play to avoid mistakes his team wouldn’t be able to overcome.

Looking back, he thinks he’s returned from Slovakia with a much more complete player.

“I think my overall game was pretty well polished there, because with every change you’re like, ‘OK, if we make a mistake and it’s at the back of our net, we don’t really the firepower to come back and catch up, ”Clarke said. “Everything counts. You must take out the puck when the opportunity arises. You can’t spoil this pass. You cannot let the other team intercept your pass.

“If it’s a two-on-one, you’re counting on here. You have to shut them down. Your team is counting on you. I really took that (to heart) and it really taught me that every game matters. … Yeah, I’m known as an attacking player, but I really think I grew up in my own zone while I was there. “

It took a while for Clarke to adjust to the style of play in Slovakia, but once he settled into his attacking game he took off. He recorded seven points in his last four games before leaving for the U18 World Championships.

In that tournament, he scored two goals and added five assists for seven points in seven games. Being a part of the Under-18 squad kept him from being selected for the World Junior camp, which he admitted he took offense at at the time, and winning gold didn’t not hurt either.

“It was tough,” Clarke said. “They are the best players in the world in my age group and the age group below too, so it was pretty cool. I was really proud to represent my country and it was a really fun and cool experience. generally.”

Brandt Clarke of the Barrie Colts skates during the 2019-20 OHL season.

Among the top 10 defensemen in this draft class, Clarke is one of only two to shoot from the right hand, which makes him a product of choice. Most right-handed hockey players are left-handed dominantly off the ice, which makes them harder to find because a smaller proportion of the population is left-handed.

“The right-handed defenseman is one of the hottest products in the NHL or in hockey in general,” said Clarke. “To be so highly commended in a coveted position is very flattering and I am very honored and proud of what I have accomplished. But there is still a long way to go. I am still not where I want to be. . I’m not a perfect hockey player, and that motivates me to get better every day. “

One of the flawed aspects of Clarke’s game is his skating.

Clarke’s unconventional skating stride, with a wide base and confidence in his inner edges, draws criticism from scouts who fear it will prevent him from being effective at the NHL level. But so far in her career, Clarke has managed to make her skating a valuable tool in her arsenal, perhaps despite her unconventional nature.

The dominant style on the inside limits it in a straight line but makes it easier to sidestep opposition and deception, and this is an attribute that Clarke has learned to exploit.

“(Being elusive is) just something I’ve always been able to do,” Clarke said. “I feel like I’m really balanced with the puck. I will always have my head held high. I will always know where my teammates are. Even before the puck comes to me, I’ll know what’s going on that side. ice.”

Combined with his hockey acumen and vision on the ice, considered one of the best in the draft, Clarke’s skating doesn’t stop him from doing what he wants to do. And if he succeeds, nothing will.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, but it’s not something that will prepare me for life,” Clarke said. “I’m still going to work hard, be the hardest working guy in the gym, skate every day, just to hopefully hit my cap of being an elite NHL defenseman someday.

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