Clarke and OHL Development


Super Star
Jan 23, 2021
Putting aside roster logjams, genuinely curious from anyone who knows about development in the junior leagues how Clarke can improve his defensive game if he returns to the OHL vs. staying with the Kings. Consensus is consistent: amazing offense and holes in defense. He’s very exciting to watch in these rookie games so far, but you can just see him getting burned in the NHL from time to time, like Smyth on Doughty ‘08 style.

Sturm said after Vegas that Clarke was better at offense and needed to improve on defense, and would have to learn how the Kings want him to play.

Reason I ask is more philosophical than anything. I hear about players going back to juniors to work on parts of their game, but that’s not an OHL coach’s prerogative to worry about what NHL teams want out of his players. It’d be impossible to juggle all those directives. And Clarke can’t just self-coach himself down there to being a more complete player. I understand the Kings Development team will be in lots of communication with him, but playing in a system outside the Kings that can only go so far.

If a player has the offensive skill Clarke does, which is possibly NHL ready, how much value is there really in him going back to juniors or is that just burning a year until he truly develops in the AHL 23-24? Or is it better to embrace the offensive gifts and take the lumps defensively in the NHL so he can learn how the Kings want him to play now?
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Drafted just 2 places after Doughty in 2008, Alex Pietrangelo wasn't promoted to the big club
until he was 20, in the 2010-11 season.

He was sent back after some NHL games as an 18 year-old.
He played the max number of NHL games allowed as a 19 year-old before having to stay pro,
but even then was sent back to the OHL to complete that season.

BTW, when he finally debuted for keeps at age 20, he had himself a 43-point 1st season . . .
(WIKIP) ---- "Pietrangelo began the 2009–10 season on the Blues' roster for a second consecutive year, but played in only nine games by December 2009. In 2010–11, Pietrangelo played his first full season with the Blues, leading all team defencemen with 43 points (11 goals and 32 assists) over 79 games. He also led team defencemen in plus-minus (+18) and shots (161), while ranking third in average ice time per game."

Thinking about Pietrangelo, an outstanding NHL D-man, helps give me patience
when thinking about Clarke.
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A couple of us were talking about this, and the short answer is i dont think we really know what a player can do when returning to the OHL, at least not from any first or second hand experience. With that said, I think there are a couple avenues here.

1. Clarke knows what the Kings want to see out of him. He knows which areas of his game they want to see him work on, and a player is certainly capable of focusing on those areas on their own, at least to some degree.

2. i think it's likely that high profile players like clarke are going to have lots of help behind the scenes. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Kings had at least talked to his OHL team in some fashion, talking about things they are hoping to see in his progression, and how he might be able to work on those parts of his game.

Finally, and this sort of applies across the board, but guys like clarke (highly skilled, NHL bound) are going to play in nearly every situation. Clarke is going to have the opportunity to work on his game on both sides of the puck. At the OHL, clarke isnt just going to be relegated to some sort of PP specialist. He'll be out there all the time, and he'll have the chance to improve all areas of his game, no matter the team's priorities. There wont be much for him to "prove" at the OHL level, but there will be opportunity for him to mature and improve certain aspects of his game. He knows how the kings want him to play, and he might not be getting the constant feedback, or the NHL quality competition that he'd face with the Kings, but the opportunities to grow as a player will still be there.

At the end of the day though, the logistic hurdles to getting him on the team are pretty high, and unfortunately, the AHL isnt an option.
I for one actually think its a blessing that the AHL isn't an option. Kaliyev is a great example of a player who in his 19yo OHL season used it to change the perceptions of how he was developing. His coaches were sold that he was willing to do the work to be out there all the time, not just be out there because any moment could turn into an offensive opportunity. He was able to be trusted for PK time and his overall stats suffered for it, but he made the team better. It's a much safer environment for these guys to work on that aspect of the game instead of getting a double gut punch of working on things that are deficient, at a higher level, where even the things you thought you were good aren't working like they used to. The Pietrangelo example is a good one for how development, even outside club control, can be worth the wait.

Everyone kind of gets hung up on the antics that DL pulled with Schenn that 19yo season, but the fact the matter is that was Lombardi reinventing the wheel for an unsure outcome based on an untried premise. The list of players that spent their 19yo year in the CHL and then stepped into the NHL without needing that AHL stint is far longer. The list that spent their 20yo season in the A as their first pro exposure even longer. There's a reason the slide rule exists for these guys, stop worrying about maximizing the opportunity on what if's.
After seeing him get smoked TWICE on dangerous hits in the rookie tournament, I am in agreement with Jammer that the OHL might be a ?safer? place for him to continue to work on his game, while continuing to put on some extra size/muscle. Doing so around other 17/18/19 year olds might be a better place for that than a league where you have lots of cast offs and guys trying to reinvent themselves in order to ascend to an NHL roster. Would it be a more challenging league for him to work on his game, yes? Trial by fire often forges the stronger tools, but it can also have the harshest ramifications for failure. So all that being said, I realize he?s not eligible for the AHL, but my point is that I don?t have any misgivings about the rule in Clarke?s case. Furthermore, I don?t think there?s upside in him supplanting one of our current NHL rostered defenders, or leap frogging a guy like Spence.
Totally insightful responses. Best takeaways for me are the legit ways he can still develop in the OHL, especially being a safer environment. Appreciated!
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