Photo Credit: Terry Wilson, OHL Images/Aaron Bell, CHL Images
The Barrie Colts defenseman is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect. Brandt Clarke is the brother of New Jersey Devils prospect and Ottawa 67’s forward, Graeme Clarke. Clarke grew up in the Ottawa, Ontario area and played youth hockey for Nepean MHA.
Clarke ended up moving across the province to Toronto, Ontario and suited up for one of the most prestigious youth hockey development programs in the area, the Don Mills Flyers. He played U15 and U16 hockey with Don Mills and was on two championship teams (GTHL U15 Champion and OHF Bantam AAA Champion). Following a 113 point season with Don Mills, he was selected fourth overall in the OHL Draft by the Barrie Colts.
Clarke’s 2019-2020 was his first season in the OHL and he tallied six goals and 32 assists in 57 games played. After a stellar debut season, he was named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team and recorded the most assists by rookie in the OHL.
Unfortunately, the 2020-2021 OHL season was cancelled due to COVID-19. With that said, Clarke and his brother, Graeme were loaned out to the Slovakian club, HC Nove Zamky. In 26 games played for HC Nove Zamky, Clarke recorded 15 points (five goals and ten assists).
Once his time in Slovakia came to an end, Clarke represented Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championships in Texas and was a point per game player during the tournament.
D.O.B – February 9, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –181 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right
Clarke’s Style Of Play
With Brandt Clarke, you can expect a defender that plays the rush extremely well, blocks lanes and pushes the attack to the corners. Clarke gets in your face, gives you as little room as possible and looks for the best moment to pounce on the puck. But, what I really like about Clarke is that you can’t read him like an open book. With every situation, there is a different strategy with Clarke. You can not predict when Clarke will pounce and there is no way of telling how Clarke will try to strip the puck away from you. I have seen instances where Clarke becomes Sergio Ramos or Dani Alves and slide tackles for the puck. Before I go on, I just want to clarify that those instances were not slew foots. Clarke was playing the puck and there was no evidence that he was going to for the skates or legs.
In the clip below from Mathis Desjardins (@m_desjardins00), you can check out Clarke defending a Quinton Byfield rush. Instead of playing tight from the neutral zone, Clarke will give you room, but as soon as you pass the perimeter, he tightens up on you and will not allow you to swing the puck around.
In the defensive zone when defending the cycle, Clarke tends to either sit net-front or play a tight game along the corners. By sitting net-front, Clarke uses his elite gap control to limit the amount of high danger opportunities. He sits right at the crease to minimize lanes for his opponents and adds a secondary shield for his goaltender. As I said, he will alternate from net-front to the corners and when he is on the corners, he plays you man-on-man and puts pressure on you. The pressure that he puts on you is overwhelming and in most cases leads to the cycle dying.
While Clarke has shown that he possesses a strong defensive game, I’ve noticed that Clarke’s skating needs further improvement in order to become NHL ready. For instance, he will have difficulty keeping his balance when deploying outside edges. When defending a puck carrier who is looking to find a gap and can be rather shifty, Clarke will have to deploy outside edges to keep pace, but don’t be surprised if he puts his hand directly on the ice surface to try to keep his balance.
When it comes to skating in transition, Clarke’s extension and placement is exactly where you want it to be. He does not take long extensions and his skates are not too wide apart. However, you will see that Clarke can struggle with his ankle flexion. His ankle won’t line up with the toes of his skates. But, he also will struggle with a knocked knee extension as Josh Mallory of McKeen’s Hockey mentioned in a post on his substack. If you aren’t familiar with a knocked knee, the Hospital for Special Surgery describes it as “a condition in which the knees bend inward and touch or “knock” against one another, even when a person is standing with their ankles apart. This places excessive force on the outer side of the knee, which can cause pain and damage over time.”
Below, you can find a screenshots of Clarke’s right skate extension and you will see that his knee bends down at an odd angle. Immediately after Clarke tries to complete a skate recovery, he loses balance and has to rely on his left leg for support.
When in transition, Clarke is constantly using crossovers for acceleration. Clarke has good speed, but sometimes you forget how speedy he is because he will zig-zag in the neutral zone. It’s rare that you will find Clarke go straight and not pivot or turn. Since the defensive measures that his opponents are taking are changing each second, Clarke adjusts on the fly.
Given how strong he is at puck movement, he will often find himself forced to handle heavy pressure when isolated in the neutral zone. Given his adaptability, he reacts quickly and can weave around traffic with the puck on his stick with ease. He stick-handles around traffic and he is a sneaky stick-handler. Clarke is not a flashy stick-handler, but he embodies soft hands that allows him to swerve the puck around an attacker quickly.
When Clarke is not controlling the transition, he is constantly reading the play and will adjust his movement on the fly. If his teammates are looking to skate the puck up on the left side and drawing traffic to them, he will skate up on the right and provide his teammates with an outlet incase they are trapped.
In the offensive zone, Clarke does not just stick to playing the point. Instead, he prefers to be all over the offensive zone. Clarke will pinch and shuffle between the low slot, perimeter and blue-line. On the power play, his puck distribution as a power play quarterback is on point. The delivery is quick and accurate. From a shooting perspective, Clarke does not just fire low danger shots as mentioned in the chart. He gets involved in high danger, medium danger and low danger situations. In fact, Clarke had 16 high danger shots in his 2019-2020 season. Lambos, Hughes, Power and Edvinsson did not come close to that at all. Lambos had the second highest high danger shots with six. Not only does Clarke get involved all over the offensive zone, but he will use his stick-handling to get him in position to succeed.
In the clip below, you can see Clarke dangle around attackers, open up ice and score. Clarke is not your prototypical defenseman. He gets involved at every inch of the offensive zone. Do not expect him to sit back on the blue-line. That is not his game at all. He is crafty and a robust playmaker.
Dougie Hamilton, RHD, Carolina Hurricanes
Brandt Clarke reminds me of Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton is a bit bigger in size, but his game is quite similar to Clarke. Elite puck mover with high offensive upside. Like the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman, he thrives in the defensive zone and is highly effective at trapping attackers and taking away lanes.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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