Kale Clague would like to be preparing for the Midget AAA regionals right now, but getting set for the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs is a pretty good option, too.
The 15-year-old defenceman joined the Brandon Wheat Kings on Monday for the rest of the post-season after his Lloydminster Bobcats lost in the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League final last week. While disappointed his Bobcats didn’t make it to the Pacific qualifier for the Telus Cup Canadian Midget AAA championship, Clague said he’s ready to do whatever he can to help the Wheat Kings in their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
"It’s good to be here and I’m excited," said the 5-foot-11, 181-pounder, who was chosen by the Wheat Kings with the sixth overall pick in last year’s WHL bantam draft. "If I get my opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of it, but other than that I’m just going to work hard in practice and it’ll be good experience."
With Clague joining 2013 fourth overall pick Nolan Patrick, the Wheat Kings now have their top two prospects in tow. While they’re capable of contributing now — Patrick played a regular shift with Brandon in a first-round sweep of the Regina Pats — Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said the call-ups were made primarily with the future in mind.
"(Clague) had a good year with his midget team," McCrimmon said. "His team made it to the league finals, they lost out to Red Deer last week and like we did with Nolan when his season was over, we’re bringing him in for experience."
A surprise selection by Brandon, which traded up in the draft to pick him when he slipped to sixth, Clague has already made a huge impression with the Wheat Kings. He finished second on the team in scoring in the pre-season with two goals and three assists and was so impressive that he stuck around for the first two weeks of the regular season, playing two more games.
After returning to midget with the Bobcats, he was superb once again, picking up 11 goals and 33 points in 31 regular-season games, before adding two goals and 13 points in 12 playoff games to finish first among defencemen and third among all players in post-season scoring. He helped Alberta win gold at the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup in Calgary, joining Patrick on the all-star team, and even had time to play a game with Lloydminster’s Alberta Junior Hockey League team, picking up an assist.
With the Wheat Kings playing well and healthy on the blue-line, he may have to wait a bit for his next WHL game, but Clague said he can still learn a lot while he’s here.
"It’s going to be good to see what it’s like to play in the WHL playoffs and the intensity that you need to bring every night and see what it takes to win," he said. "Hopefully next year I can make the team, and this year will prepare me for next year."
ONE-TIMERS: The Wheat Kings’ best-of-seven series with the Oil Kings begins on Thursday (7:30 p.m., CKLQ) in Edmonton, followed by a Saturday matinee (12:30, CKLQ). Brandon will host Games 3 and 4 next week on Tuesday and Wednesday (both at 7 p.m., Westman Place).