As the LA Kings hit the ice for observe this morning, donning their chrome helmets upfront of the following day’s season opener, one, rather legible quantity stood out among the leisure.
The Kings have had only one participant in organizational historical past put on quantity 92 in a sport – Rick Tocchet, again in 1994. While he has no longer but performed in a regular-season sport, defenseman Brandt Clarke is aiming to be the 2nd. The 19-year-old defenseman has made the group out of camp and adjusted his quantity from 54 to 92 in the procedure. He famous that no longer many defensemen round the league put on a quantity in the 90’s……however perhaps it’ll get started to catch on, although that’s no longer the actual reasoning at the back of it.
“I went with 92, 55 is my original number but obviously Q has that,” Clarke defined. “My brother wears 92, so it’s cool that if we can both make the NHL, we’ll wear it together, and my birthday is also February 9, ninth day of the second month, so that works out well too. I also think it looks pretty sharp.”
The quantity on the again of Clarke’s helmet this morning is actually inappropriate, actually, even supposing it is a great creation to the tale.
The tale right here is the 7th youngest defenseman in franchise historical past to make an opening-night roster. Clarke slots at the back of Tobias Bjornfot and Drew Doughty on that checklist, the two of the 3 blueliners who cracked the roster as an 18-year-old. A second for Clarke that can closing a lifetime, residing the dream of creating the NHL roster.
“It’s surreal, it’s something I’ve been working for my entire life really, it’s been a goal of mine,” Clarke mentioned. “I’ve really ramped it up since knowing this was real possibility. They’ve given a real opportunity to showcase myself and I think I took advantage of that, I’m just stoked to be here. This is a dream of mine. I love the players here, I love the staff here and I’m thrilled to be on this team.”
Clarke’s play throughout coaching camp is what earned him a spot on the roster to open the season, certainly one of seven defensemen to destroy camp with the NHL membership.
The younger defenseman performed in six of 7 preseason video games, that includes in a number of other roles with other companions. Clarke performed on the energy play. He performed on each side of the ice. He’s made performs that make you move wow and he’s made performs that chances are you’ll be expecting an 18-year-old taking part in towards NHL gamers to make.
Through all of it although, he’s been himself, taking part in with his personal taste of hockey, with his personal persona. So a long way, so excellent.
“Brandt knows who Brandt is, he knows what’s in his toolbox, in his toolkit,” Head Coach McLellan mentioned. “He hasn’t played with fear and what I mean by fear is not the physical part of it, it’s the fear of erring on the ice, he makes plays, the intense plays. He’s been very coachable throughout training camp. Potentially away from the Kings, I could see where that confidence or that swagger could be misread in other environments, where it could hurt him, but with us, not one bit.”
The Kings have two assistant coaches with a wealth of revel in when it comes to introducing more youthful defensemen into the NHL in Trent Yawney and Jim Hiller, either one of whom have labored with gamers in the ones age levels of their time in the league. Now it’s Clarke’s flip.
The regulations state that Clarke can play up to 9 video games earlier than the Kings really want to make a choice on his complete season agenda. Look at it from this perspective – Between now and November 14, the Kings play 18 video games, that means if Clarke went each and every different night between from time to time, he’d play 9 video games through that time.
His OHL group in Barrie best performs 11 video games throughout that extend as smartly, so for the “Clarke needs to play to develop” crowd, he’s actually no longer shedding out on any sport motion through taking part in in part of the NHL video games in that point as opposed to a complete, OHL slate.
“It comes down to making sure that when he does get the lineup, he’s going to get the right amount of minutes to keep developing,” General Manager Rob Blake mentioned. “His play through rookie camp and training camp has put him to a level where we want to see him in the NHL and that kind of went into the decision process. Now, the step is to make sure that it keeps going that way and we’ll let that play out here for the first little while and probably have to reevaluate [later on].”
When it comes to his play, maximum of the eyeballs move to what he does with the puck and his play at the offensive finish of the ice, before everything.
Blake has observed greater than that although and it calls for greater than that to play in the NHL. Clarke’s skill with the puck, together with his deception and hockey intelligence in the offensive zone, are issues that Blake has favored seeing, however he’s additionally been inspired with Clarke’s skill to cling his personal defensively and to play in all eventualities. On a group that prides itself in defensive construction and being tough to play towards, the ones issues are vital. Clarke has shone thru in some ways in his General Manager’s eyes.
“I think he can play in all situations, including penalty kill, which can give you an opportunity to get the minutes needed to keep developing at the NHL level. Power play, obviously, you see the deception and his hockey IQ, but also defending, he’s good in a sense with his defending. He’ll have to learn to protect himself a little bit more, there are guys who are bigger and stronger at this level than in juniors. I think his all-around game, there are a lot of aspects that would allow a player when he does get in the lineup in the regular season to maintain those minutes that are going to help him progress.”
Helpful for the Kings in the procedure of doubtless easing Clarke into sport motion is the proven fact that 5 of the seven defensemen on the roster for Opening Night shoot proper. With Sean Walker returning to the crew that still comprises Drew Doughty, Matt Roy and Sean Durzi, the Kings have a wealth of intensity and revel in on the proper facet of the blueline, intensity that implies no longer best can the Kings be selective with Clarke’s integration, however that a defenseman could have to play on the left facet on a night-to-night foundation.
Blake addressed the selections that experience to be made and the way they might pertain to Clarke’s standing early in the season.
“We’ve tried quite a few [players] over there, Sean Walker’s played there at times, I think we’ve got to get him comfortable coming back from the surgery before we experiment again with the left side,” Blake added. “We saw Sean Durzi slide over there and make that transition really easy and we’ve used Clarke over there a couple of times. The availability to open up that left side within our defense can increase [the chances of] getting Brandt in the lineup and getting him the minutes he needs.”
As Clarke takes the subsequent step in the procedure, from preseason video games to regular-season video games, he is aware of that the adventure will best get increasingly tough.
He’s observed firsthand the variations in leaping from the OHL to the Rookie Faceoff after which the Rookie Faceoff to NHL coaching camp. Along the method, Clarke has gotten a first-hand schooling on how gamers in any respect ranges get ready, and the dedication required on a day-to-day foundation. He highlighted Alex Edler and Drew Doughty as gamers who’ve helped him right here with the Kings and it’s the professionalism and angle that the NHL calls for that has rubbed off on him the maximum.
“You see the professional attitude around here, it’s really telling and if you want to stick here, you have to bring the same attitude every day in practices, games, workouts,” Clarke mentioned. “It’s really been an eye opener how seriously everyone takes it, how determined everyone is here. I’ve tried to match that, I’ve had to bring my ‘A’ performance every single day because if not I’m going to fall behind and I wouldn’t be on this team right now. That’s something I’m pretty proud of with the consistency that I brought and I’m going to try to continue it.”
Whether that leads to a spot amongst the six defensemen anticipated to get dressed the following day night time towards Vegas stays to be observed. Clarke has no doubt inspired in his six exhibition contests, however the Kings even have six defensemen with NHL revel in on the group along him.
His time will come although, with the expectation that he’ll take a look at into an early-season sport to make his NHL debut quickly sufficient. When that point comes, he’ll be ready and appreciative for the opportunity.
“We’ll see what happens. Whether I’m in the press box or in the lineup, either way it’ll be pretty soon. I’m just really appreciative to be here and thrilled to be on this team.”