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2016 NHL Draft prospect profile: Kale Clague stood out on a championship team

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He had a slow start, but Clague was one of the best defencemen on a stacked Brandon Wheat Kings club on its way to a Memorial Cup berth.

CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

After missing most of his rookie WHL season with injury trouble, playing just 20 games, Kale Clague finally made an impression in his second year with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

In 71 regular-season contests, he scored six goals and added 37 assists for the team that finished fifth in total goals scored of the 22 teams in the league. That was good for the ninth-highest point total on the team, and third on a stacked blue line behind the top-pairing defenders: 20-year-old captain Macoy Erkamps (13-58—71) and the 2015 NHL Draft’s seventh-overall pick and WHL First Team All-Star, Ivan Provorov (21-52—73).

Birthplace: Regina, Saskatchewan
Shoots: Left
Position: Defence
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 177 lbs.

All six of those goals were scored at even strength, tying him with Erkamps for second among defenceman behind Provorov’s 13 tallies, and placing him among the top-six draft-eligible CHL D-men in that category.

In the playoffs, he matched that goal-scoring total in just 21 games, and led Brandon’s defence in scoring on the way to a WHL championship. He didn't register any points in the three games the team played in the Memorial Cup.

He's able to contribute fairly impressive offensive totals from a second-pairing role by putting all of his tools together. He’s a great skater, with good edgework, acceleration, and speed, and uses them to race the puck out of his end and navigate the top of the offensive zone. He has good vision that allows him to find outlet passes and set up an offensive rush, and also find lanes when the team gets set up in the opposition’s end.

He’s efficient when releasing the puck, either on a quck pass to a teammate or a low slap shot on goal that will either the beat the goaltender outright or create a high probability of a rebound, which is how he was able to record many of his assists this year. He also possesses an accurate wrist shot and a decent one-timer.

He’s not a big player, at just under 6’0" and 177 pounds, but he has good shooting mechanics and gets every ounce of his mass behind the puck. As he develops physically, his shot should continue to get heavier, and he will become an even greater offensive threat.

Some scouts felt he didn’t do enough to put his stamp on the games in the early part of the season, but as the playoffs approached he showed more competitiveness, and he emerged as a feisty defender down the stretch, and showed he wasn't afraid to drop the gloves on a few occasions after a one-on-one battle boiled over.

The reason he played just 20 games in his rookie year was three different injuries sustained at different points of the season, so there may be some injury concerns, however a healthy 2015-16 showing that saw him play a total of 104 games for Brandon in a variety of competition should alleviate those doubts.

He can get into trouble when he's not able to outskate the opposing players, whether that’s attempting a flat-footed pass in the offensive zone, or trying to keep track of his check in defensive-zone coverage. He has quite a bit of work to do on his defensive game. When he connects his aggressiveness with some good defensive play, he'll be able to get the puck back in his possession more easily, and will get to use the abilities that have him ranked as an early second-rounder in this year’s draft more often.

Scouting

Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects (2015)

An offensive defenceman in nature, Clague is a tantalizing blend of speed, cunning, and craftiness. Very smooth skater that is mobile at a professional level. Great vision and is able to control plays with the puck on his stick. Creative passer. Will need to work on his shot and consistency moving forward, but has the undeniable raw skills and fundamental attributes of a puck-moving offensive defenceman. All-in-all, a highly skilled defenceman that has the potential to be a proficient producer from the back end.

Future Considerations (June, 2016)

Clague is a calm-and-cool, puck-rushing defenceman. He is a dynamic skater who can absolutely fly and weave around the ice. He is a constant threat to rush the puck up ice and single-handedly create a scoring chance, but picks his spots as to maintain his obligations defensively. He sacrifies a little defensively for the amount of offense he is involved in.

He sees the ice at an elite level and just seems to know what options will be available well before the play occurs. His offensive game can be electric. Clague has great hands and tremendous puckhandling skills. He has a very good shot and uses a compact, but charging, slap shot to quickly get pucks on the net. He is very good at timing one-timers and hesitates very little when getting wrist shots on target.

Mark Edwards, Hockey Prospect Black Book (June, 2016)

A tale of two seasons for him. He was a big faller in our rankings in the first half of the season but recovered a bit with a better finish.

ISS Hockey (June, 2016)

Clague is a smooth skating defender that isn’t shy to join the rush when given the opportunity to do so. He is a very strong skater with excellent mobility which allows him to beat a forechecker by himself. His defensive game has improved since the beginning of the season and he has really simplified his game. He has very good skills and a hard, accurate shot from the point.

When he uses his skating ability to full advantage, he's a very dynamic player. He makes good decisions with the puck, but can get into trouble when he tries to be too creative or when making plays stationary. His puck retrievals are getting better by being simple and quick. Still an offensive weapon with a cannon of a shot.

Rankings

Future Considerations: 39th

ISS Hockey: 39th

Central Scouting service: 27th (North American skaters)

Hockey Prospect Black Book: 45th

DraftBuzz Hockey: 32nd

ESPN: 22nd

Thoughts

Clague is yet another of the left-handed defencemen expected to be taken in the first half of the second round, and could be a target of the Montreal Canadiens at either 39th or 45th.

He's got a good handle on the offensive aspects of the game, so his development will focus on his defensive game, which is a common concern for most defencemen, and the case for the majority of blue-liners on the board in 2016.

He may not be on the short list of ideal candidates for the team’s two second-round selections, but he could be a good addition to the prospect depth.