During his exit interview, Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake was non-committal when asked where Brandt Clarke would play next season.
Blake said that Clarke will play pro next season, but whether that’s in the NHL or AHL is still up in the air.
For Clarke, his eyes are set on the NHL.
“That’s my expectation for myself, that’s the standard I’m holding myself for and what I’m trying to prepare myself for,” said Clarke when asked if his eyes are set on the NHL next season.
“It’s obviously up to them,” Clarke continued. “I still have to impress, I’m not saying I have a spot by any means. That’s the mindset I’m going into the summer with and what I’m preparing myself for.”
When he was sent down to the Barrie Colts last season, the main focus for Clarke was getting stronger. He needed to add weight and get harder to play against in the defensive zone. And that’s still the focus heading into the summer.
“I think so,” said Clarke when asked if strength is his main focus this summer. “I think it’s always taken me a bit longer than some other guys to fill out. But I feel like I’m catching up in terms of that. I feel like one of the stronger guys out there and I want to keep adding that. It’s finally catching up to me and that’s a good feeling, I feel great right now. I feel like the strongest I’ve ever been.”
The added mass and physical maturity hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff either. Director of Amateur Scouting Glenn Murray pointed out that you can tell Clarke is bigger just talking to him.
“Yeah, you just kind of notice it in him,” said Murray when asked about Clarke’s physical growth. “You can just tell, he and I are usually about the same size, 6-foot-2, he’s almost 6-foot-3, but just the maturity. His body is becoming a man, I go back to the offseason training, he’s maybe used to working out three days a week and now he’s probably doing 5-6. The importance of every day and doing that training. When the season starts for those types of players, it’s easy. The hard part, is the offseason.”
Murray’s also noticed a big improvement in Clarke’s defensive game and thinks it’s now an underrated part of his game.
“I think for our development staff, he doesn’t get enough credit for being a good defensemen,” said Murray. ” I really believe that. I think because everyone always sees the offensive part and the instincts that he has. But I don’t know if he gets enough credit for his defensive play, obviously you guys talk to (Sean) O’Donnell and (Matt Greene) and we’re not the coaches, the coaches might see things a little different. But I truly believe he’s better than anyone thinks (defensively.)”