With New York Islanders first-rounder Ryan Pulock poised to make the jump to the pros this upcoming season, the timing couldn’t be any better for the Brandon Wheat Kings to escort highly regarded rearguard Kale Clague into the league.
“I’m exciting about the upcoming year,” says Clague, who was selected sixth overall in the 2013 WHL bantam draft. “I’m looking forward to camp and getting to go through it all again. It was exciting last year to get to go to camps in Brandon, but I wasn’t old enough to stay with the team so this year it will be a different experience.”
The 5-foot-11, 181-pound Clague is coming off a successful season of midget puck with the Lloydminister Bobcats. The smooth-skating defenceman scored at over a point-per-game with 11 goals and 33 points in 31 contests.
“I thought overall it (the season) went pretty good,” says Clague, who turned 16 in June. “It’s quite a bit of a different game to go from bantam to midget, but I thought I did well on transitioning to the speed and the size of the players.”
Partially because of his impressive season with the Bobcats, the Wheat Kings rewarded Clague with two regular-season and three playoffs games.
“It was a great experience to get some WHL games under my belt,” he says. “I also played some playoff games with them against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It was great to play Edmonton to see what it takes to be a very good team like them because that’s the type of team we (Brandon) want to be in a couple of years.”
Clague’s claim to fame is that he broke Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf’s bantam scoring record for a defenceman in the AMBHL. The Lloydminister, Alta., native notched 35 goals and 77 points in 33 games in 2012-13, outscoring Phaneuf by 12 points.
“It’s something I’m proud of,” says Clague on breaking Phaneuf’s bantam record. “I had a decent year and it was one milestone in my career… Phaneuf is a very accomplished player in the NHL, so it was cool to break someone’s record who has done as much as he has.”
Beyond their legendary bantam point totals, Clague doesn’t see too many comparable between him and Phaneuf. He sees himself blazing his own trail rather than following Phaneuf’s footsteps.
“I think some parts of our games are comparable, but I don’t think we’re that comparable,” he says. “And I have a ways to go before I’m anywhere close to where he is, so I don’t think it’s a fair comparison and I think I’m my own player.”
With that said on Clague’s immense success in the bantam ranks, the Wheat Kings were fortunate to snag him with the sixth overall selection. He entered the draft regarded as a clear-cut top-5 talent, but he seemed to drop because of commitment concerns and other team’s positional needs.
“I was super excited when the Wheat Kings drafted me,” says Clague. “It’s a great opportunity to come to a team like this with a great coach like Kelly (McCrimmon). So I wasn’t upset that I wasn’t selected until sixth because of the great team I went to.”
1. Your father, Jason Clague, was formerly a goalie for the Red Deer Rebels and Regina Pats. Why did you decide not to follow in his footsteps in the blue paint?
“I tried being a goalie when I was younger in novice, but I never had the desire to play that position. I like being out there and a part of the play.”
2. Who’s your favoutire NHL player?
“I like (Los Angeles Kings defenceman) Drew Doughty. He plays hard at both ends and can control the play at both ends. I just like how he plays.”
3. Do you have a favourite NHL team?
“I like more than one. I like the Kings because Doughty is my favourite player, but I also like the Chicago Blackhawks because they’re an exciting team to watch. I try to cheer for the (Edmonton) Oilers because they are close to where I live, but it’s not easy because they haven’t been good in a long time.”
4. What’s your favourite movie or TV show?
“My favourite move is Troy and my favourite TV show is Prison Break. I like them because they’re full of action and I like those kinds of shows.”
5. If you weren’t fully entrenched in hockey, what other sport would you pursue?
"Baseball for sure. I played baseball about to the second year of peewee and really enjoyed it. We’ve had some good baseball teams in Lloydminister and I actually won four provincial championships in a row.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen