The Red Wings could be looking to round-out their blue line this season with stellar top-end defenseman. Could Brandt Clarke be that defenseman for Detroit?
As Covid-19 forced hockey leagues around the world to postpone or completely skip the 2021 season, dozens of top-prospects scrambled to leagues around the world in an attempt to provide some sort of talent showcase for the current year. As the Ontario Hockey League’s season hung in limbo (The league would later announce the cancellation of the entire season), Clarke journeyed to the Slovakian League, playing with HC Nove Zamky. In his 26 games in Slovakia, Clarke scored five goals and 10 assists. He received another shot at showcasing his talent with Canada’s U-18 club, where he averaged a point per game in seven (2 goals, 5 assists).
Clarke joins Luke Hughes and Simon Edvinsson in the category of defensemen with lethal offensive toolkits. Although he’s been criticized for his odd stride, Clarke’s speed and mobility are still lethal when he has the puck. This is especially true, considering he possesses probably the best shot of any defensemen in the draft. His instant release on his wrist shot is especially scary, fooling both defenders and goaltenders with ease.
Clarke is also an above average playmaker and passer with the puck; if the timing isn’t just right for a dangerous wrister at the net, he’ll make a smart play to either put his team in a high-danger scoring chance or keep the offensive drive continuing. This combination of skills create an excellent quarterback for a team’s offense and power play: he keeps defenders wary with his deceivingly quick shot and can find smart passing lanes to facilitate the puck to the wingers.
Needs a Bit of Work Defensively
To say Clarke has struggled a bit defensively would be unfair. He doesn’t have the defensive lapses of Edvinsson; he often uses his speed and mobility to overtake a defender. However, Clarke’s defensive toolkit isn’t well-rounded enough to be considered top-end in the draft. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Clarke’s size his nothing to scoff at when entering a zone. He has no problem letting opponents know of his presence with a hit in open ice. But he lacks strength, often coming up short in one-on-one battles for the puck. Similarly to Luke Hughes, Clarke also needs to eliminate a bit of the pointless passes and over possessions to remain strong on the defensive end, as he can occasionally create a pointless turnover.
Good Fit for the Red Wings?
Clarke is a bit of a combination of the other two “offensive defenseman” near the top end of this years draft. His offense isn’t quite as offensively gifted as Hughes, and he’s not quite as far along defensively as Edvinsson: he has a comfortable, well balanced combination of both. Clarke has some of the raw skills to push the offense in the NHL and he’s above average defensively. Although he doesn’t have Edvinsson levels of potential, he could very well be the best defenseman in the draft because of his ability as a two-way player. Red Wings fans know how Steve Yzerman feels about two-way players – Blashill and Co. worked all season trying to improve the defensive side of some of Detroit’s better forwards. If Yzerman calls on Brandt Clarke’s come draft night, it’ll be because of Clarke’s enticing ability to provide balance on the blue line.
All information related to Brandt Clarke’s goal and assists totals were accessed via Elite Prospects