It was a special day for the Clarke family of Barrhaven on Jan. 3.
In a rarity that may have been a first in NHL history, two brothers were called up to the NHL from their AHL affiliates by different teams on the same day.
The New Jersey Devils called up Graeme Clarke from the Utica Comets for his first NHL game on January 6. Not long afterward, the Los Angeles Kings recalled Graeme’s younger brother, Brandt, from their AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign.
“That was cool – a real coincidence,” said Graeme Clarke following his first NHL game. “It probably wasn’t planned that way but it just happened to happen. I’m really happy for him.”
For Brandt Clarke, it was his first NHL stint of the season, but he had opened the 2022-23 campaign with the Kings before winning gold for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. His older brother, Graeme, is a highly-skilled 22-year-old forward who has put up big offensive numbers for years at various levels on his path to the NHL.
Graeme Clarke may be the most prolific scorer that the Nepean Minor Hockey Association has ever seen. After playing Double-A hockey with the Raiders, he advanced to the Senators AAA club (now called Myers Automotive), which combines the top players from Nepean and Kanata. In his first season with the Senators in the Hockey East Ontario U14 AAA league, Clarke had 56 goals and 23 assists for 79 points in just 27 games. He was also called up to play nine games as an underage affiliated player and scored five goals and had four assists for nine points.
Clarke moved to Toronto to play for the Toronto Marlboros in the more competitive Greater Toronto Hockey League. In 114 games over two seasons, he scored 118 goals and had 187 points.
The next stop on Clarke’s journey to the NHL was back home, playing for the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League. Clarke had 14 goals and 11 assists for 25 points as a rookie, and then in his second year, he scored 23 goals and had 11 assists for the 36 points. He also had a good run in the playoffs with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 18 games.
After that season, he was selected in the third round of the NHL Draft by the Devils. He went back to junior but suffered a shoulder injury and played only 16 games with 17 points before the 2019-20 season was shut down by COVID-19. When play resumed the following season, Clarke went the Devils’ AHL affiliate, first n Binghamton and then in Utica, and has been waiting for his shot at the NHL. This year, he is leading the Utica Comets in goals scored and is on pace for a 28 goal, 28 assist season.
Graeme Clarke posted on the X platform after his call-up to New Jersey for his first NHL game.
“Really excited to be here. Wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Clarke’s parents learned of Graeme’s call-up by the Devils and immediately flew to Newark for the game between the Devils and the Chicago Blackhawks. The excitement was put on hold temporarily, as Clarke was scratched from the line-up after a player who had been ill was unexpectedly ready to play.
The team, as well as Clarke’s parents, got ready for another game the following night as the Devils were hosting the Vancouver Canucks. Graeme Clarke finally got to play in his first NHL game, with his parents in attendance at the Prudential Center. The Devils lost the game 6-4.
“Not the result we wanted, but a really cool experience for me,” Clarke said to the media in the post-game scrum after the game. “I had my parents here today. That was really special because of how much they’ve helped me get here. I wanted to play well for them.”
Graeme Clarke was sent back to Utica after his first NHL game. He logged 9:32 of ice time and had a plus-one on the stats sheet.
While Graeme got his game in the NHL with the Devils, Brandt got to play in a game for the Kings against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Last season, Brandt Clarke played nine games with the Kings before joining Team Canada and winning a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Tournament. He returned to the OHL after the World Juniors and went on an historic run for a defenceman. In 31 games with the Barrie Colts, Clarke had 23 goals and 38 assists for 61 points.
This season is Clarke’s first full year as a professional. He has been playing with the Kings’ AHL affiliate in Ontario, California. In 30 games, he has seven goals and 25 assists for 32 points.
There is little doubt that the Barrhaven brothers will have long and successful pro hockey careers, with the potential for stardom in the NHL. Regardless of their induvial successes, being called up from the minors of the same day by two different teams is something the brothers will always be able to share.
Featured Image – Graeme and Brandt Clarke pose for a photo with Ottawa-based agent Randy Robitaille of Edge Sports. (X photo – edge)