Not only are the LA Kings expected to look different at forward next season, there will also be an injection of youth on the blueline. Several players have already had their NHL audition to call Drew Doughty their teammate, including – Sean Walker, Matt Roy, and Daniel Brickley. Next in line is the team’s key draft pick from 2016, Kale Clague.
Now ‘graduated’ to a full-time pro hockey player — thus, he will not be attending next week’s Development Camp in Los Angeles, Clague has worked his way into becoming one of the team’s top ranked prospects. We recently caught up with the 21-year-old reargaurd to look back over a few of his milestone moments and also glance ahead to what’s next.
Here’s Five Questions with Kale Clague:
MM: Take us back to Draft weekend and some of the memories surrounding being selected in the second round by Los Angeles:
When I look back on it, being picked by LA, I was pretty fortunate to end up with the Kings. Obviously that’s an exciting time for the players being drafted. It certainly was exciting for me and my family. I think going into the weekend, every guy wants to get drafted as high as possible. You have that mindset on draft day. I wasn’t really sure where I’d be taken, though. I think I was rated around late first round, early second round. Then, I ended up going 51. Looking back at my Combine interview with LA, they seemed to really like me. I remember them basically saying, ‘If you’re available at 51, we’re going to be drafting you.’ I knew they didn’t have a pick in the first round, so on the second day, when I saw their pick was getting close in the second round, I started to pray that I went to LA. I was praying they’d stick to their word, and sure enough they did. I was very pleased and honored that they were the team taking me, too. I think it’s a great situation for me and my style of game, so I think it’s worked out pretty well.
MM: Right after the Draft comes Development Camp, and it will be the first time many of the new draft picks will have ever been to Los Angeles…
I learned a lot, a lot of different skills [to add to] my game. The whole Development staff are constantly teaching and it was a lot of information to take, which was really good. My first camp, it seemed like we did a lot of skating and working on various things. It was a good week overall. When I left, I felt I was better than when I came in, which is always positive. Early on, it was my first time for a lot of experiences and skating in Los Angeles. I thought it was pretty cool that you could go the rink, and then right after, you can head to the beach.
MM: Is it safe to assume your relationship with coach Mike Stothers has evolved since you first arrived in Ontario?
I didn’t know him coming him in, but I knew he was a hard-nose guy. I know he demands a lot of his players, now that I’ve played for him. What I like about Stutts is you always know where you stand with him. When you’re playing well, he’ll let you know. And if you’re not playing well – and you need to pick up your game a bit – he’ll let you know. I like that feedback and communication style from Stutts. I think, over the course of this past season, it took a little bit for me to earn that trust from him. As the year went on, as I got comfortable with the American League, I think that my trust became stronger. By the end of the year, I think we have a good relationship. That’s positive because I think you want to have the best relationship you can with your coach.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) February 23, 2019
MM: You made significant strides in your game, and were scheduled for a call-up to the NHL, and then the injury happened…
Yeah, it was bad timing. Like you said, my game was really starting to pick up. I think I was producing a lot more and playing tons of minutes with [Sean Walker, Matt Roy, Kurtis MacDermid, etc.], so that was a positive. I was playing, like, 25 minutes a night. That’s when you get better, when you’re playing and you’re learning from mistakes and different parts of the game. That made it really bad timing because I was hoping that if I continued to play well, maybe by the end of the season, I’d get a couple [NHL] games, just for that experience to bring back into training camp this coming season. But, you know, I think everything happens for a reason. It gives me another summer to get stronger and faster. I’m back skating and now I’m excited to go into training camp and make a mark, show what I have.
Even after Phaneuf buyout, Kings have Doughty, Forbort, Martinez on D.
Leaving 8 guys fighting for final 4 spots – Walker, Brickley, Roy, Clague, LaDue, MacDermid, Anderson, Phillips.
Assuming Anderson and Phillips start the season in AHL (which is likely IMO), still too many.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 15, 2019
MM: With Dion Phaneuf being bought out, that opens the door for a younger player to grab that spot. Do things like that add an extra layer of motivation for you this summer?
I don’t think I look too much into things like that. It’s the NHL. It doesn’t really matter how many spots [are open] or how many guys are there or whatever; you’re always going to have to beat someone out. Whether that’s a veteran guy, or you’re competing with another young guy for ice time, you’re going to have to come in and take that spot from somebody else. I think, no matter what, I’m just working as hard as I can this summer to keep prepared for that situation and when the opportunity comes in training camp, and exhibition games, I’m going to take full advantage of it.
Little known tidbit on @Matt_Luff25…
While the public nickname is Luffer, that’s not the real one.
Several of his teammates in Ontario took to calling him White Chocolate last season after he picked up a basketball at CBBA when the court was down and was just draining shots.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) November 20, 2018
Before we wrapped things up with Clague, we also had a quick bonus round…
MM: Let’s end with a few lighthearted things. Matt Luff has a great nickname. Give us another one that people probably don’t know…
I would say Chaz [Reddekopp], we call him ‘The Killer’ – I just can’t tell you why.
MM: Six former players have had their numbers retired by the Kings. Their jerseys now hang in the rafters at Staples Center. How many of the six can you name?
Blake, Dionne, Robitaille, Gretzky… and I can’t remember the last two. Who are they?
MM: Rogie Vachon and Dave Taylor.
I should have guessed Dave Taylor, but I wouldn’t have known Vachon. He was before my time.
MM: Only five players in franchise history, and none for any real length of time have worn No. 34. You’ve worn it in Ontario. Would you like to keep that number in LA?
If I could choose any number in the entire world, it would be 10. I know Mike Amadio wears 10 in LA, though. I wore 51 in Moose Jaw and I know Wagner wears 51. So when the time comes, I’m not sure.
[Ed. note: Well, now we both have homework. Clague is going to spend the summer dreaming up a new number. We’ll be trying to figure out the origin of Reddekopp’s nickname.]
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