Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2021 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we bring you our Brandt Clarke Scouting Report.
With the OHL season never quite getting off the runway due to COVID-19, the league’s top prospect, defenceman Brandt Clarke headed to Europe, playing for HC Nove Zamky in the Slovakian professional league. His game really developed while playing against men. Clarke put up five goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 24 games.
The fourth overall pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Draft, Clarke spent the 2019-20 season with the Barrie Colts. He was a member of the league’s All-Rookie Team, and led all OHL rookies with 32 assists. Brandt also had six goals and 38 points in 57 games. He was a star, playing for Team Canada Red at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, scoring five goals and an assist in six games. His brother, Graeme Clarke, is a prospect with the New Jersey Devils, and was a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Brandt Clarke Scouting Report
Defence — shoots Right
Born February 9th, 2003 — Nepean, Ontario
Height 6’1″ — Weight 181 lbs [185 cm / 82 kg]
Clarke’s game is based on his skating ability. This allows him to get forward in the offensive zone as well as join the rush, and still get back defensively. He has a strong first step and very good acceleration. His ability to change speeds allows him to avoid forecheckers and get past defenders. His top-end speed is also very good. Clarke’s edgework and agility are close to elite. He can turn on a dime, and can also walk the line, opening up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. Clarke could stand to get a bit stronger in his core though. This will help improve his balance and strength on his skates. It will help him to win battles in the defensive zone and clear the front of the net.
Clarke pairs his outstanding skating ability with great hands. This allows him to skate the puck up the ice and control it while moving at top speed. He can avoid forecheckers and clear the defensive zone. Clarke is also good at leading the rush through the neutral zone, creating odd-man opportunities. He can also move the puck with a strong first pass. Clarke is effective at gaining the zone, especially on the power play. The ability to enter the offensive zone cleanly and set things up is invaluable. Clarke has high-end vision and passing skills. He can feather the pass through a tight area. Clarke uses his mobility and quick hands to create passing lanes and set up teammates on the power play.
Clarke has an excellent wrist shot and a very good release. He shows good power and is deadly accurate. His release is quick and deceptive. He can do a quick toe-drag and get the puck off from a variety of angles, fooling goaltenders. The quick-release also helps Clarke to uses that shot effectively on the rush. In the zone, he also loves to sneak in from the point, letting his shot go from the top of the circles. He can use some work on his slap shot and one-timer though. As he adds muscle to his upper body, he can improve the power of his shot. In any event, Clarke has used his wrist shot far more than his slapper.
Clarke’s skating helps him in his defensive game. It lets him maintain good gap control and he is hard to beat in one-on-one situations. He is also good at winning races for loose pucks and helping his team in the transition game. Clarke could use some work on his defensive instincts though, he can get over aggressive at going after the puck and get himself out of position. He also needs to get stronger as he can be outmuscled along the boards and in front of the net. Overall, Clarke improved his defensive game while playing against men in Slovakia this year, but there are still some areas that he could stand to clean up.
Projection and Comparison
Brandt Clarke has the potential to become a dynamic offensive defenceman going forward. He could become a franchise-changing player, as well as compete for the Norris Trophy while in his prime if he reaches his ceiling. Of course, this is no guarantee. Clarke needs to continue his development, especially in the defensive end of the ice. However, his outstanding skating ability, ability to produce offence and hockey intelligence are all high-end. Clarke has some experience playing against men, so he could challenge for a spot in camp next year, but it is more likely that a little more time in junior is needed. His game is reminiscent of Erik Karlsson, however, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill or potential.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Brandt Clarke that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Brandt Clarke Scouting Report Main Photo: