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This article was published 24/9/2015 (2097 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Kale Clague is a man on a mission.
The 17-year-old Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman, who played just 20 regular season games last year due to injury, is eager for the new season to begin on Friday.
"This past summer I worked really hard to make up for the lost season that I kind of had last year," Clague said. "I’m anxious to get at it."
The Wheat Kings open their season against the Swift Current Broncos at Westman Place on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The highly touted Clague, whose father Jason played goal for the Regina Pats and Red Deer Rebels from 1991-95, was chosen sixth overall in 2013 WHL bantam draft, two spots behind Brandon teammate Nolan Patrick.
Disaster struck for Clague in November of his rookie season when, serving as captain for one of Canada’s teams at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, he broke his wrist. Not long after he returned in February, he suffered a leg injury. The Lloydminster, Alta., product was hurt again in the playoffs.
It was the first time that he ever lost games to injury, something he admits wasn’t easy. But he found a way to channel the disappointment by learning from games he wasn’t playing in.
"I was a 16-year-old in the league and I was just watching guys from around the league coming to Brandon and watching guys like (Wheat Kings defenceman Ivan) Provorov and a bunch of veteran ‘D’ that we had," Clague said. "Obviously you can learn a bunch from how they go about things and I think that’s going to help me this year."
A summer of hard work won’t hurt either. He said he showed up at Wheat Kings camp last season a little out of shape, a mistake he was determined not to repeat.
Head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon had an opportunity to watch Clague at the Canadian
under-18 camp in Calgary this summer and the games he played in August in the Ivan Hlinka tournament online.
"The first thing that struck me was how confident he looked and he was in great shape," McCrimmon said. "It’s exactly how I remembered him when he is at his best. It’s good for him to have a good start to his season before he even got here."
Playing with Patrick and their Wheat Kings teammate Tanner Kaspick, Clague had a goal in four games as Team Canada won a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and to be able to do it with two guys that I play with is pretty special," Clague said. "To win it, obviously, is awesome."
Now in his National Hockey League draft year, Clague says he is intent on becoming a more complete player, something he works on daily in drills at practice. While his goals remain entirely focused on the Wheat Kings, he admits that the draft is omnipresent.
"It’s in the back of my head," Clague said. "I know that if I can stick to my game and play the way that I can, the rest will take care of itself."
Clague had a strong camp, something he followed up in the pre-season with three goals and three assists in four games.
In two of the games he spent time with Provorov, a dynamic pairing that served as an offensive catalyst for the team.
"It’s nice to play with a guy like that, a seventh-overall draft pick who had an outstanding year last year for us," Clague said. "He’s going to be a great defenceman in the NHL one day so to learn from him is special."
He said Wheat Kings fans haven’t seen him close to the top of his game yet. Last season he had 16 points in 32 regular-season and playoff games; in 115 bantam games, he had 159 points.
"I didn’t really get a chance to get into a rhythm last year so I don’t think they’ve seen me at my best," Clague said. "I know for sure that they’re going to see my best this year."
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