There are plenty of reasons for National Hockey League scouts to keep an eye on the Brandon Wheat Kings at the Memorial Cup.
Especially those looking to get a final gauge on Wheat Kings defenseman Kale Clague.
The highly anticipated blueliner struggled through much of his NHL Draft eligible season, but showed plenty of promise late in the season and through the Western Hockey League playoffs.
“After cooling my jets on Clague during his struggles to generate offensive, I was pleasantly surprised with his strong second half and adaptation to become more effective,” Brandon-based Future Considerations scout Justin Froese said.
“Clague is a light-footed skater who excels at agility and fine-tuned movement. He skates well in relation to the speed of opponents and has the attributes to be very slippery when looking to avoid contact. His puck skills are superior for someone his age, especially now that he has learned to scale back the cuteness to be more effective in elusion situations. His passing is precise and accurate. He does play with a little risk on some his longer range and cross ice plays but his ability to spot play development is high end.
“He has developed into a catalyst on the point and a mastermind that is very capable of working the power play. His size is a concern for me as he really showed that he has a tougher time defending sizable opponents who have a physical advantage. He will throw the body but doesn’t do a whole lot besides use an active stick and control space with his speed. He isn’t horrendous defensively but does get duped at times with skillful puck movement.
“Clague is a fixture on the second pairing and will be a top defender for the Wheat Kings next year. He has the smarts to play a high-speed game, but must learn to utilize every resource available in order to defend at the professional level.”
The 6-foot, 178-pound defenseman had six goals and 43 points in 71 games this season, and added 15 points in 21 playoff games to help Brandon to the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
He wasn’t alone in those efforts.
After scoring 31 points in the regular season, center Tanner Kaspick chipped in five goals and 10 points in 21 games to help the Wheat Kings best the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL final.
“He plays a simple north/south game and he has value as a complementary piece,” Future Considerations’ scout Donesh Mazloum said. “He is a responsible defender and shows a good understanding of defensive coverage. He is also a player who works smart as opposed to hard. He doesn’t take shortcuts however he is over-aggressive either. He has a very understated hockey sense and shows consistency at both ends of the ice. Offensively, Kaspick does most of his work around the net front. He is a physically strong player who works his way into high scoring areas. Outside of his nose for the net, Kaspick’s O game is limited. He often has difficulty finding teammates and can get caught hesitating and holding onto the puck too long.”
Scouts will also keep an eye on forward Ty Lewis.
Lewis, a forward, had two goals in 21 playoff games.
“He’s a smaller forward, provided fearlessness as he matched up against larger opponents,” Froese said. “He did a great job of getting onto pucks first on the forecheck and grinding to get the puck moving on the cycle. His speed is difficult for most defenders to handle when back peddling, allowing him to get that extra advantage at times. He has excellent hands and skill that has really come to fruition as he has learned to generate more space at the WHL level.”