Rookie defenseman Kale Clague spent the past two seasons in AHL Ontario preparing for a moment like this. Well, maybe not exactly like this — but certainly for the opportunity to be a significant contributor at the NHL level. Already thrust into a second-pairing role much earlier that expected, while veteran Olli Maatta sat out as a healthy scratch for a few games recently, Clague now looks to become a permanent fixture on the Kings blueline for an “extended period” – words used by LA coach Todd McLellan when describing how long Matt Roy and Sean Walker were expected to be sidelined following injuries in last Thursday’s game vs. the Wild.
While nothing is etched in stone just yet, the team’s first practice since returning from Minnesota saw Clague paired with old friend Kurtis MacDermid.
Afterward, the 22-year-old blueliner shared these thoughts:
Clague on the opportunity in front of him with Roy and Walker out for an extended time
This is gonna be a big opportunity for myself and the other guys in the room. Obviously, Walks and Roysie are two huge pieces of his team and we’re gonna be missing them dearly. However, this is a massive opportunity to step in and show that I’m ready to play full-time and continue to grow and progress my game. There’s gonna be key minutes to be had, just gotta be ready.
On how Drew Doughty has been leading the younger defensemen this season
I think if you just watch him on the ice, he’s such a competitive guy. I think that’s what makes him so great, how competitive he is. Even in practice, he gets so mad if he gets beat in a 2-on-1 drill. He’s hooting and hollering. I look at him and that kind of stuff, it’s just really impressive. The way he thinks the game is, it’s not like anybody I’ve ever seen before. He’s so smart and that’s what makes him so good.
On the idea of playing with MacDermid again, who he was paired with today at practice
Dermy and I are comfortable. I’m moving back to the right side; I’m comfortable there. We played together a little bit in Ontario, so we have that familiarity, that chemistry. It will be a smooth transition for the most part, I think. It felt good in practice. Just have to make sure we’re talking lots and I think it’ll be good.
On what’s been going through his mind over the past 48 hours, wondering how Roy and Walker are doing
I feel sick for those guys. Both of them were scary plays. Roysie was a vulnerable spot and he went in so awkward. Walks getting a puck to the face, it’s such a scary play, both of them. I feel sick for them and I hope they’re doing OK. This is gonna be a big opportunity and there’s gonna be some shoes that need to be filled. I’ll take it as a positive that this opportunity is gonna be huge for me. I just want to contribute in the right way.
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Lead photo via Getty Images / LA Kings