One of the biggest position battles for the Los Angeles Kings this summer is the third-pair right defense spot.
Most people have Brandt Clarke slotted there, however, Jordan Spence won’t be going down without a fight.
Spence has defied the odds at every level. An undersized defenseman who’s exceeded his draft position already, no one should be counting Spence out.
It would also be nice to see Spence win that roster spot in Australia, where he was born. Of course, Spence doesn’t consider himself Australian and doesn’t think about it much, but it would be a cool layer to an already great story.
“I think so,” said Spence when asked if this Australia trip has special meaning for him. “I was born there, so, going back and just taking everything in when I get there is pretty special. Obviously, we’re going there for training camp and I need to be focused. But at the same time, when we have free time it’s pretty cool to just take everything in and enjoy the moment.”
“No, I was only there until I was a year, year and a half, years old so I don’t remember much, to be honest,” said Spence when asked if he’s been back to Australia since leaving as a kid.
“I think they (Spence’s parents) are more excited, just because they lived there longer,” said Spence when asked what this means for his parents. “They have some friends that they’re going to reconnect with while down there, they’ll come to the games and stuff. Yeah, it will be pretty cool.”
Despite the tough competition, Spence is in a great spot to make the roster. After a few strong performances in the NHL two seasons ago, Spence went down and dominated in the AHL last season.
“Yeah, I think so,” said Clarke when asked if he’s in the best spot he’s been in to make the NHL roster. “Last year, I had a pretty good year in the AHL and had some games in the NHL. But this offseason I just wanted to gain more size and strength, and I think I did that in the offseason, now it’s time to showcase that on the ice during training camp. I feel comfortable, I feel ready so, I’m excited for the step.”
Losing a teammate is never fun, but there’s no question that the Kings’ decision to trade three right-shot defensemen this summer — Sean Durzi, Sean Walker and Helge Grans — creates a big opportunity for Spence.
“Yeah, obviously, they were great players last year and played one of the bigger roles last year, but them leaving puts me in a spot where I have more of a chance this year,” said Spence when asked if the offseason moves give him a better chance of making the roster. “I’m excited for the challenge, there’s going to be some adversity I have to face and, hopefully, I can overcome it.”
Spence’s big challenge is going to be Clarke. Clarke comes in with draft pedigree, is coming off an incredible OHL season and gained experience in the NHL last season.
“Yeah, he’s a great player, he was drafted in the first round for a reason,” said Spence on what he’s expecting out of the battle with Clarke. “So, I think, we’re good friends but it’s good we’re competitive with each other. Besides that, he’s going to bring his A game, I’m going to bring my A game, it’s going to be a tough challenge, we’re both excited. We all want to be on the Kings at the end of the day, that’s our goal and we’ll find out.”
If Clarke doesn’t win the job out of camp, it doesn’t completely remove Spence’s chances of making the NHL roster either. We saw last season that the organization is comfortable playing defensemen on their off-side and Spence can make that work.
“I didn’t really play on my left side the past two years, I was mainly focused on the right side and there wasn’t anything for me to do on my left side,” said Spence on how comfortable he is on the left. “Before that, I did play on the left, I think I’m pretty comfortable with it, obviously, there’s some adjustment I have to do but if they want me to play on the left side I’m comfortable with that.”
Spence is also looking forward to the opportunity to potentially play with his partner from Ontario, Tobias Bjornfot, on the left side.
“Yeah, last year I was with him (Bjornfot) all year in the AHL,” said Spence. “So, I know when he brings his A game, I know how he plays and he knows how I play when I bring my A game. So, we’re pretty comfortable when we play with each other and I wouldn’t be surprised if we matched up together in Australia.”
The battle between Spence and Clarke will be one of the most interesting stories to follow over the next few weeks. While I am still leaning toward Clarke winning that spot, I’ve learned to never count out Spence.