Kings stay put in NHL draft and land defenseman Brandt Clarke with eighth pick
Coming into Friday’s NHL draft, the Kings had a chance to advance their rebuild by making a splash with a trade. According to general manager Rob Blake, though, instead of looking to trade the eighth pick for someone who could make an immediate impact, they considered moving up — with eyes on their target.
But as the night fell into focus, it became clear that wouldn’t be necessary. Five picks after the Ducks drafted their preferred option in center Mason McTavish, the Kings got theirs in Brandt Clarke.
Clarke, a defenseman who plays with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, fell into his seat and put his head in his hands upon hearing his name announced. On a video call with reporters, he spoke fast, as if overwhelmed, and called Friday “the best day of my life.”
“It was a pretty cool experience,” Clarke said. “So I have a really good support system and there’s a lot of people off camera you guys didn’t see.”
Clarke, 18, played in Slovakia last year because the OHL canceled its season, scoring six goals with seven assists over 26 games. He also averaged a point per game playing for Canada in the World Junior Championships.
Though Clarke won’t play in the NHL right away — he’ll most likely spend next year in the OHL — he projects as a strong playmaker who can be on the power play unit. Scouting reports say his skating isn’t particularly quick, but he has a good sense for the game.
“I feel like I am a creative player,” Clarke said. “I’m very patient with the puck. ... I pride myself on getting pucks up quick. I pride myself on making good first passes, but I do have that creative aspect.”
As for his skating, as well as his size, Clarke sounded ready to address the problem. His weight sat at 185 pounds before the World Juniors. He wants to push it over 200 — and has already gained seven pounds this offseason.
“I’m not afraid to talk about it,” Clarke said. “I’m not the fastest player, I don’t have the best shot, I’m not the strongest guy on the ice. I wanna get better at everything.”
Blake said the Kings’ scouting department had been high on Clarke “from Day 1,” impressed by his play against professionals in Slovakia.
“I think as far as a defenseman with offensive ability,” Blake said. “And that’s the deception, the poise with the puck, the subtle plays he makes to bring a defender to him and either get a forward in stride or get a puck through the net a certain way. So something we definitely needed and glad to have added that.”
McTavish, 18, another OHL product, knows Clarke well, as the two grew up about 20 minutes from each other in Ottawa, Canada. According to the latter, they hang out regularly, and likely will on Saturday.
The Ducks’ first rounder spent last season in Switzerland’s second-tier league, also playing for Canada in World Juniors, scoring five goals with six assists in the tournament. McTavish and GM Bob Murray were both noncommittal when asked about whether he could play in the NHL next year, saying it could depend how rookie camp goes.
“I’d say the biggest thing [about my game] is my hockey IQ, just knowing where to be, knowing what play to make at the right time,” McTavish said. “I’d say another thing that makes me the player I am today is just my compete level. How hard I compete on and off the ice.”
Seth Jones among trades
The Chicago Blackhawks acquired defenseman Seth Jones and two draft picks from the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Adam Boqvist and three picks.
The Arizona Coyotes traded captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks for the No. 9 selection, two future picks and three veteran forwards. The St. Louis Blues acquired high-scoring forward Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers for Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick.
Earlier in the day, the Philadelphia Flyers traded the 14th pick and a 2023 second-rounder to the Buffalo Sabres for big defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
The Montreal Canadiens stunned the NHL by taking Logan Mailloux 31st. Mailloux, who was criminally convicted in Sweden last year for sharing without consent a photo of a woman performing a sex act, asked teams not to select him.
Also, the Canadiens said goalie Carey Price had knee surgery and is expected to be out 10-12 weeks. The team expects Price to be ready for the start of the regular season in mid-October.
On the signing front, the Boston Bruins locked up Taylor Hall with a $24 million, four-year contract.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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