When the Brandon Wheat Kings made Kale Clague the sixth pick overall at the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, he became yet another highly-touted defenseman among an already deep stable of defenders compiled by Kelly McCrimmon in Brandon.
Clague set a scoring record for bantam defensemen in Alberta with the Lloydminster Heat during his bantam draft year with 77 points in 33 games, breaking the previous mark of 65 points held by Dion Phaneuf. It was hoped he would immediately settle in and contribute offensively in Brandon, but his rookie campaign presented some personal challenges.
At the time, the Wheat Kings blueline boasted Eric Roy (CGY), Ryan Pilon (NYI) and Ivan Provorov (PHI), along with a deep supporting cast including two 20-year-olds, Colton Waltz and Reid Gow, who was acquired at mid-season. Making enough of an impact early on may have proven difficult for Clague, but a wrist injury suffered in November of his rookie campaign during the World U17 Hockey Challenge briefly derailed his progress. Shortly after his return to the Brandon lineup, he suffered a leg injury. All told, he would play only 20 games, collecting four goals and nine assists.
If there was a silver lining for the 6’, 177-pounder, it was the Wheaties run through the post-season. He appeared in 12 games, but Brandon would eventually bow out to the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL Championship series.
Prior to the 2015-16 season, Clague earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Through 47 games in the WHL this season, he has scored twice, added 17 assists and compiled a +9 rating.
On the home front, in Canada’s “Border City”, Clague is well known in the hockey community, emerging through his many years in the Lloydminster Blazers minor hockey system. During the off-seasons, it’s commonplace for NHL players to return to the area, where they rub shoulders and share ice time with some of the young, up-and-coming prospects. Clague has been the beneficiary of these opportunities.
Clague values the input from his father Jason, who toiled in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels from 1992-94. A multi-sports fan, Clague enjoys baseball and suggests Steph Curry as his favorite athlete.
NHL Central Scouting has ranked Clague 22nd in their midterm rankings. On his development, CSS indicates that his “skating asset is strong; eludes defenders while being checked or starting an offensive play and displays excellent vision when moving the puck. He makes solid first passes out of zone and displays good decision making on when to lead or join the rush. He uses his smarts to strip opponents off the puck to gain possession. Clague is a composed player who makes good choices under pressure.”
Hockey’s Future spoke with Clague at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game – an interview conducted alongside Mike Morreale of NHL.com – with audio of that conversation below in this HF podcast.
Follow Glen Erickson on Twitter via @glenerickson51