Surrounded by his family and friends, Brandt Clarke burst into tears when he heard the Los Angeles Kings announce his name with the eighth overall selection in the 2021 NHL Draft.
As the scene erupted in celebration and he was congratulated by those around him at his home near Ottawa, there was no holding back the emotions for the Barrie Colts defenceman.
“It was crazy,” Clarke said in a Kings online press conference shortly after he was drafted. “You sat there and saw the picks go by, people I knew and it was a pretty cool experience. I have a really good support system. . . There were a lot of people supporting me and just the fact that they came a ways from out of town to support me was amazing.
“That feeling, when it finally happened, it was raw emotion. I was really excited and what can I say, it was the best day of my life.”
Clarke said he had a feeling the Kings were interested in him. Regardless he is thrilled to join the organization.
“I did talk to them a good amount of times. They really liked me,” Clarke said of the Kings interest in him. “We did some video too. I broke down some plays for them. They wanted to see what I saw in situations and it was cool. I’m really happy that I talked to them that much and I was really happy.
“They were great to me the entire interview process and I’m ecstatic to be an LA King.”
Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake admits the Kings had an eye on Clarke. While most of the play they saw of him this year was on video because of the pandemic, his play with HC Nove Zamky, Imre Valasek in Slovakia against older players stood out.
“They (scouting staff) were very high on Brandt,” he said. “Right from Day 1 we were discussing possibilities that he may be available, so it worked out that way.”
As for what stood out about Clarke’s play on the ice, Blake points to his ability to create offence.
“I think as far as defensemen with the offensive ability and that’s the deception, the poise with the puck, the subtle plays he makes to bring a defender to him and either hit a forward in stride or get a puck through to the net a certain way,” Blake said of his newest prospect.
“He was something we definitely needed and glad to have added that.”
Asked about his game be comparable to King’s longtime standout and two-way star defenceman Drew Doughty, Clarke wanted none of it.
The 18-year-old made it clear he’s looking forward to learning from the Doughty.
“I don’t know. Drew is one of the most complete players in the NHL and has been for many seasons, multiple times Stanley Cup champion and I’m not an established person yet,” the 18-year-old said. “I don’t want to have those kinds of expectations. He’s a Hall of Famer and I have the utmost respect for that guy and I don’t like it when people jump the guy and say huge comparisons that they’re going to be NHL legends because it’s not always realistic.
“So, I have the utmost respect for him. I hope I get to learn from him, and it’s going to be cool to (learn from) that guy because I’ve watched him so many years. I do like to model my game after him. He does a lot of special things out there, but I wouldn’t say I’m Drew Doughty because he’s an all-time great.”
The Colts would have three players in the organization selected in the first round. Along with Clarke, prospects Matthew Coronato and Oscar Olausson also went early.
Coronato was selected 13th overall by the Calgary Flames. The Greenlawn, N.Y. native had 48 goals and 85 points in 51 games in the United States Hockey League this year.
The five-foot-10, 183-pound right-winger, who has committed to play at Harvard University next season, is a dominant offensive force. A strong skater, he also plays a physical style and has been compared by some to former Flyers Hall of Famer John LeClair.
“He had a phenomenal year playing for the Chicago Steel,” said Colts acting general manager Marty Williamson. “He’s a phenomenal goal scorer and really had a phenomenal year that shored him up to get picked as high as he did by Calgary.
“He’s a commit to Harvard, but being such a high pick in the first round we think we could be a great option for him.”
Olausson, Barrie’s 2021 second-round import pick, was selected 28th overall by the Colorado Avalanche.
The Stockholm, Sweden native had three goals and an assist in his Swedish Hockey League debut this season with HV 71’s.
A very good skater with strong puck skills, it’s likely the Avalanche give him more time to develop his game.
“We were going to take him at three overall and weren’t sure where things sat with him, so we took him with our second pick,” Williamson said of the six-foot-two, 181-pound winger. “We’re going to work on it, but it’s very realistic we can get him into Barrie so that’s exciting for us.”
Williamson said the Colts will do all they can to get the two impact players to Barrie.
“You’re talking Tyson Forester type players,” he said. “These are high end players. If we can get fortunate and do our homework, and work on these guys, it could be a special year for them.”
Colts forward Ethan Cardwell, a reentry into this year’s draft, was selected in the fourth round (121st overall) by the San Jose Sharks.
Defenceman Arthur Cholach, who the Colts selected third overall in this year’s CHL Import Draft, was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the sixth round (190)
Alliston native Jacob Holmes, a defenceman with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds was taken by the Dallas Stars in the fifth round (143rd overall).
images: Terry Wilson/OHL Images