NHL draft tracker: Kale Clague, Brandon Wheat Kings

Brandon defenceman Kale Clague is one of the WHL's top prospects in the 2016 NHL draft class. (Brandon Wheat Kings)
Brandon defenceman Kale Clague is one of the WHL's top prospects in the 2016 NHL draft class. (Brandon Wheat Kings)

Brandon Wheat Kings blueliner Kale Clague has been in Western Canada’s hockey limelight since his second of year bantam. In that season with the Lloyminster Bantam ‘AAA’ Heat, he broke Dion Phaneuf’s AMBHL defensive scoring record with 35 goals and 77 points in 33 games.

“It was a big year for me for that year,” says Clague, who is ranked 22nd overall in NHL Central Scouting Service’s mid-term ranking. “A big part of my success was my teammates. We had a really good team with lots of good players. I also put in the work that year and it paid off.”

Largely because of his bantam record, Clague came into the WHL as a highly hyped defender last year. A couple long-term injuries got in the way of his plan to hit the ground running as a freshman, though. He only suited up in 20 contests, netting four markers and 13 points.

“It wasn’t an ideal 16-year-old season,” says the Lloydminster, Alta., native. “It was hard to overcome those injuries and it sucked to sit out all those games. But I worked hard with our trainer in Brandon and got healthy again and ready for this year.”

The 6-foot, 178-pound Clague, who is regarded as a smooth skating offensive defender with crafty hands and great vision, feels he got off to a slow start in his sophomore season before catching steam around Christmas.

“This year has been okay so far,” says Clague, who has posted three goals and 24 points in 55 matches this year. “I didn’t have a good start. Around Christmas, though, I started getting better and better and kept it going. I want to continue to keep it going and keep on getting better in the rest of the regular-season games and carry it over into the playoffs.”

Clague, 17, doesn’t have far to look to see what it takes to become a high NHL draft pick, as he plays alongside Philadelphia Flyers prized pick Ivan Provorov. He feels playing with the Russia native has helped him understand the work ethic and talent it takes to become a premier prospect.

“Ivan is a great player in the WHL; he’s the best defenceman in the league,” he says. “Watching him put in the work and how he defends and plays the game, you get to see a good example of how to play the game. It’s great playing with him and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

1. Do you look up to someone in the NHL?

“I like (Ottawa Senators defender) Erik Karlsson. He’s a dynamic offensive defenceman who has a lot of skill. But I’d say I play more like (Toronto Maple Leafs’) Morgan Rielly or (Chicago Blackhawks’) Duncan Keith. They are more two-way guys who have a lot of offensive skill.”

2. Do you have a favourite NHL team?

“I don’t really have one. I follow certain players and watch a lot of teams that are fun to watch.”

3. What rink do you look forward to playing in on the road?

“I like playing in the Brandt Centre in Regina. It’s a nice size for a rink and they have good ice. I always enjoy going there to play.”

4. Your father, Jason Clague, played net in the WHL. Why did you decide to become a defender?

“I never had the desire to become a goalie. When I was younger, we had the option of trying it and it was never for me. I’ve always liked defence because I like jumping up in the play and being a part of the play.”

5. If you weren’t entrenched in hockey, what other sport would you be pursuing right now?

“Baseball. I played it a lot growing up and played on some good teams. We won provincials and some championships when I was younger. I really enjoyed playing, and it was especially fun because we had good teams.”

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen