It has been an eventful year for the first-round Kings selection in 2021.
Brandt Clark started his 2021-22 season on a dip, costing him a bout with mononucleosis participating in both the 2021 Rookie Faceoff, as well as the NHL training camp the previous season. Back in OHL, Clarke was named mid-season captain for Barrie Colts when he was 18, an honor not paid to play with three seasons of junior eligibility all that often.
Clarke described positivity as a huge part of his leadership style as a leader, something that is an essential part of the team’s success and something that starts before the game and continues to do so. Clarke may have tested positive in December, when he was not selected to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, although he was considered close to being locked up by overseas outlets at the time.
However, disdain did not deter Clarke’s success on the ice, as he scored more than one point per game in the OHL, leading his team with 59 points in the process. His second half was not without setbacks, with an eight-game suspension in March and a season-ending lower-body injury in April costing him a chance to take part in the post-season.
Through it all, though, Clarke has had an impressive first season as a member of the Kings, and is believed to have made great strides in finishing his overall match since he was named eighth overall by the Kings one summer ago.
“I think when I was when I was recruited a lot of people were talking about my offensive abilities and not saying I’m letting go of those abilities – I still think I’m still getting better in that situation – but my coach at Barry explained: ‘I’ve really honed in my defensive game,'” Clark explained. And they wanted me to play against top players all over the league.” “This [also] What people in L.A. were telling me, they wanted to see how I handle myself in these kinds of situations, against the top players across OHL and I really stuck, I think I excelled.”
Clarke’s path then led him to the LA Kings development camp, with the opportunity to pitch this all-around game against others within the organization’s pool of possibilities.
The development camp certainly features a wider range of talent than Clarke has faced at OHL this season. With players having NHL games in the camp, as well as players who had just been drafted and still several years away from the professional ranks, Clark had the opportunity to not only take on some of the highest caliber players, but impose his style of play. Play in melee settings as well.
“The sharpness is really high, everyone was trying to make their mark and that’s what you want,” Clark said of the camp. “You want high intensity, you want to give your best and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’m trying to showcase myself, but also, you know, just be a good fellow in the locker room and be a good guy off the ice as well.”
Development camp, after all, is as much about getting ahead and resting off the ice as it is about performing on it.
Clarke definitely noticed those with NHL experience in camp, especially duo Tobias Björnfoot and Jordan Spence on the two ballons. Both players were key players at times with the Kings last season, with Bjornfoot playing 70 regular season games and Spence contributing in the first round against Edmonton.
The opportunity to test himself not only against this level of talent, but also to learn from the way they carry themselves on and off the ice, was a great idea for Clark.
“They bring in the sharpness, they don’t take days off, they put effort into every skate, every workout is impressive,” he said. “It’s the mentality you have to have if you want to play at the top level and that’s why they are stuck. That’s why they’re going to have successful careers and that’s what I want to instill in myself, that’s the kind of behavior I want to have 365 days a year.”
As he progressed, Clark’s next stop after development camp was the Hockey Canada Summer Show event, which brought together candidates for both the 2022 and 2023 World Junior Championships, as well as the top Canadians participating in the U-18 level.
With the best and brightest on the ice all together, in one building, he wasn’t selected for the original 2022 tournament in Clark’s mind, but his focus on camp was very simple – play his game.
“There’s always this thing that backs up your mind,” he said, “and you want to prove people wrong, but I don’t want to let that confuse me.” “I will just play my game. It has made me successful in the past… So I will just stick to my game plan, do what I do and hopefully put a smile on their faces, I guess you can say.”
– Russell Morgan (@NHLRussell) 27 July 2022
You could say his game put a few smiles on quite a few faces during the recent melee, between Clarke’s Team Red and the Under-18s. Having nearly put up a pair of power-playing goals with high-risk passes, Clarke held the area at the left point, fouled a player as he made his way toward the net and slotted home the game-winning goal.
It was one scene and it came in a summertime melee game against players younger than him. This context is required. But it also provided a glimpse into some of the traits that make Clarke special, namely his sense of hockey in the attacking area, his vision in the gaming industry to create individual opportunity for others and skills with a puck rare for a man of defense. Regardless of the context, these are great things and he showed it well.
Assuming Hockey Canada doesn’t change its mind regarding the upcoming tournament in August, Clark’s next test will bring tougher competition, when the Kings hit the ice for training camp in September.
Clarke is a wild card when it comes to the NHL roster and his status entering his 19-year-old season makes him eligible for either the NHL or OHL and not the AHL. With an abundance of right-handed defenders, there are certainly no guarantees for the player in this situation, but this will not prevent him from believing in himself to thrive in this position. How to beat the highest levels of competition, you’ll know in six weeks.
“I’m really intrigued to see what I love about those show games, against the best NHL players,” he said. “It’s going to be fun, but I feel confident in myself. I’ve had some summer skates in Ottawa, with some pro players across the NHL and I’ve been stuck there, I can still play my game, my creative style, so, I’m confident in myself. I think I’m ready to go “.