The Journey: Early Reports from Prospect Camps & Showcases (Clarke, Eklund, Hutson, Mann)

Benjamin Gehrels

2022-09-17

Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way.

This week, prospect camps and showcases have opened up around the league. As other Dobbers writers have pointed out in recent weeks, insights like "Player A is in the best shape of his life" are meaningless given that this is the NHL and that should be a baseline expectation. That said, there have been some exciting clips and nuggets surfacing from scouts and observers about various high-level prospects. Let's dig into some.

Clarke's Skating

Ever since being taken 8th overall by the Kings in 2021, Brandt Clarke has lived inside the Top 10 of Dobber's Top 50 Prospect Defensemen rankings. He has been a coveted asset in fantasy both for his skill/upside and his opportunity with the up-and-coming Kings.

The 32-year-old Drew Doughty has seen a ton of mileage over his 14 seasons and will eventually start to slow. L.A. is flush with defensive specialists (Tobias Bjornfot, Sean Walker, Matt Roy, Mikey Anderson), but there is less competition on the offensive side of the blue line—though the emergence last year of Jordan Spence and Sean Durzi has clouded things somewhat. Regardless, this is a team with a top-tier prospect system who should be making serious noise in a few years, and many poolies envision the deceptive, high-IQ Clarke playing a central role.

The only thing holding him back has always been his skating. Every single scouting report in his draft year noted his awkward skating stride with assessments like "wonky," "clunky," and "knock-kneed." His backwards skating and crossovers were considered particularly suspect, the concern being that elite NHL skaters like Brayden Point and Connor McDavid would be able to blow by him wide and expose him on the rush.

The fortunate thing is that skating mechanics are one of the most correctable skills in a prospect—unlike assets