One 16-year-old defenseman is hopeful he will be joining elite company in his rookie season.
There is certainly no lack of confidence in the game of Barrie Colts rookie Brandt Clarke. The 4th overall pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection is now 6 games into his OHL career. However, that hasn’t stopped him from setting high expectations for himself.
“I just want to play my game, I think the accolades will come if I do that. Everyone says that 40 point plateau for a 16-year-old defenseman is elite. So it would be nice to be somewhere around there,” said Clarke.
Clarke was draft 4th overall after putting up 113 points in 73 games with the Don Mills Flyers last season. As shown by his numbers Clarke is an offensive weapon from the back end. Something that was proven right away as he put up 9 points in the preseason with Barrie. Clarke said because of his strong preseason it helped boost his confidence right away.
“My teammates made me look good so I was able to capitalize on some chances,” said Clarke. “I’ve felt good in the regular season so far, not nearly the production-wise. I still feel like I’ve been playing relatively the same way. If I keep doing stuff the same way the points will come.”
One thing people tend to notice about Clarke is his ability to jump up in the play and act like a fourth forward. Because of his skating ability, he is able to do this without getting caught and giving up odd-man rushes. Clarke credits his older brother, Graeme Clarke, for helping him develop his skating.
“When I was younger I always went out with my brother and his friends so I had to keep up with them. I think that is definitely what propelled me to be a good skater,” said Clarke.
Because of his style of play Clarke likes to compare himself to some of the more noteworthy offensive defensemen in the NHL.
“I like to model myself after Erik Karlsson because he likes to get up in the play and he knows when to get back,” said Clarke. “He just has the flare to him which I think I can bring.”
Clarke said the offensive mindset probably comes from the fact he used to play forward when he was younger. Making the move to defense after his team didn’t have enough defensemen.
“I was actually a forward in novice, my dad was my coach and we had some defenseman drop our team and he said that we needed someone back there,” said Clarke. “I went back there for a couple of games and I loved it and it just stuck I guess.”
With all the hype surrounding Clarke, there has been a lot of different scouting reports popping up about him. Some of which say he is one of the better OHL defenceman prospects the league has seen. While Clarke said he is happy people view him that way he is trying not to think about it too much.
“It’s cool I guess, I try to not read into that too much because I don’t want to have a big head,” said Clarke.
While the draft is still two years away for Clarke he said like any highly touted prospect it is in the back of his mind. However, he is more focus on developing and winning with the team at this point.
“Of course it is, you always think about that, like that’s the dream. If I ever want to think about that I got to keep playing the way I can,” said Clarke. “I feel like I’m setting myself up on the right path. If I let outside noise interfere or get distracted that will be what messes me up. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Clarke did say it helps he has his brother to lean on through this whole process. Making his journey a little easier and allows him to focus on the ice and let the rest play out.
“My brother has been a big help, he has been able to walk me through a lot of things because he was drafted 6th overall for the 67’s,” said Clarke. “He had kinda the same scenario as I did coming as a higher pick and having to weather the storm. There a lot of attraction to your name and he was drafted this year by the New Jersey Devils so if I ever get that chance he’ll be there to help.”
Off the ice, Clarke is a lot like any other 16-year-old kid and as a few minor habits, he likes to do before playing every game.
“I have a couple of unnoticeable ones, I always have a pregame handshake with half the team pretty much. I just love it I don’t know why,” said Clarke. “When I walk in a said I need some pregame handshakes with the guys. When I get dressed I also do the left side first and the right side after, just stuff like that.”
Now six games into his OHL career Clarke has shown he belongs in this league. Already established his role quarterbacking the Colts powerplay. Clarke has complete control over how far he goes, but things are looking up for the budding star.