Clarke On Centre Stage At World Jrs.
There will be an extra level of excitement for local hockey fans as the 2023 IIHF World Junior Tournament opens up in Halifax and Moncton.
Brandt Clarke, a Barrhaven native who grew up playing in the Nepean Minor Hickey Association, will be suiting up for Team Canada. The 19-year-old defenceman spent last season with the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League before being drafted eighth overall by the Los Angeles Kings. He opened the season with the Kings and then had a conditioning stint with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League. He has been a healthy scratch for many games, but the Kings did not send him back down to the Colts. Playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors will be a positive step for the development of Clarke’s career, and it will get him back on the ice competing.
Team Canada’s first exhibition game against Switzerland was Clarke’s first game action in almost a month. Clarke admitted he was fatigued, but added the exhibition games would help him get back in game shape and ready for the tournament.
“Overall I think I was making plays and I had my head up and making the right play when the puck was on my stick so overall I’m happy,” Clarke told TSN after the Switzerland game.
The 2022 World Junior Tournament was postponed because of Omicron and moved to August. Clarke and a number of other top NHL draft picks did not play in the tournament, as they were preparing for their first NHL training camps.
Clarke has always been a big fan of the World Junior Tournament. In 2009, he was only five years old but attended every Canada game with his family as the tournament was played in Ottawa. He got to see Jordan Eberle’s famous goal live, and he also got the chance to see the outstanding young Swedish defensive pairing of Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson.
After nine games with the Kings, Clarke had two assists in nine games. He put up remarkable offensive numbers for a defenceman in Barrie last year with 59 points in 55 games. In five AHL games in Ontario, he had a goal and an assist.
Last summer, Clarke’s objective was to make the Kings out of camp. He did well and had a good pre-season, and he appeared in eight of the team’s first nine games. Since then, however, he has appeared in only one of the Kings’ last 20 games. The limit for NHL rookies to play without burning a year of their contract is nine games. After the tournament, the Kings will either have to send Clarke back to the Colts, or keep him and play him and use the first year of his NHL contract.
Clarke told The Hockey News before the tournament that he is hoping to have a strong tournament and get back to Los Angeles to crack the line-up.
“When this tournament is over, I’m going to head back (to Los Angeles) and try to stake my claim as a solidified player in the top six,” Clarke told the Hockey News.
Canada opens the tournament Dec. 26 vs. Czechia. Canada’s other games are Dec. 28 vs. Germany; Dec. 29 vs. Austria; and Dec. 31 vs. Sweden. All games are at 6:30 p.m. EST. The playoff round begins Jan. 2 with the gold medal game Jan. 5.
Featured image courtesy of Barrie Colts.