Kale Clague is a young, mobile, offensive defenceman with exceptional vision and the ability to play against top opposition.
He recently helped the Brandon Wheat Kings capture their third WHL Championship in franchise history, allowing them to punch their ticket to the 2016 Memorial Cup.
Here’s looking at 2016 NHL prospect, and why he has the ‘wow factor.’
Age on June 24: 18
Current Team: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Position: Left Defence
Weight: 179 pounds
From: Lloydminster, Alta.
NHL Central Scouting Rank (North America): 27th
Jeff Marek’s Take: Awful first half of the season, but by the end of it the smallish defenceman asserted himself offensively.
Catch him if you can
If there’s one thing Clague is known for, it’s his blazing speed. Add a good set of hands and a knack for making the right play, and it’s easy to see why he’ll be a solid offensive defenceman at the professional rank.
“Clague is possibly the most purely talented defenceman I have seen come down the pipe in the last few years,” said scout Zenon Herasymiuk of futureconsiderations.ca. “He has soft hands and a powerful stride which he uses to dynamically transition the puck and create offence for his team. He has a big, booming shot, poise and an electric skillset which makes him difficult to contain when he has space, and he’s a threat to create offence at all times.”
He’s not afraid to mix it up
He’s far from being the biggest blueliner in the draft, but Clague has honed his game in the toughest of the three Canadian junior leagues.
He plays a physical brand of hockey and is not afraid to get his hands dirty once in a while.
He’s determined to persevere
A pair of long-term injuries limited Clague to just 20 games in 2014-15. First, he broke his wrist while serving as captain for Team Canada West at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, then he suffered a leg injury the following February.
Clague returned to the Wheat Kings for the playoffs but was injured again shortly after.
“I didn’t really get a chance to get into a rhythm last year, so I don’t think they’ve seen me at my best,” Clague told The Brandon Sun.
“I know for sure that they’re going to see my best this year,” he said ahead of his sophomore season.
Clague was right. He scored six goals and 43 assists in 71 games for Brandon, and added six goals and nine assists in 21 playoff games to help the team win the WHL Championship.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Clague’s father Jason is a WHL alum, having suited up as a goaltender for the Red Deer Rebels (host of this year’s Memorial Cup) for 87 games from 1992-95.
Jason had the luxury of watching Kale play during the WHL playoffs, as well as in the 2016 Memorial Cup, in which they placed fourth.
He’s a confident man
NHL Central Scouting had Clague as high as 22nd among North American prospects in their mid-season rankings. He dropped to 27th, which is somewhat hard to understand considering his impact on the Wheat Kings advancing through the WHL playoffs.
Clague told Yahoo! Sports he plays like Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Reilly and looks up to Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith. If he turns out to be anything like any of those players, he’ll have a very bright NHL future.