Clague ready to make an impact
(Marc Smith) Kale Clague is going to bring a lot to the Moose Jaw Warriors’ lineup, but his championship experience might be the biggest asset.
The Warriors added Clague in a deadline deal with the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday and he made his debut on Friday night in an 8-2 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings.
“It’s definitely a different feel, I grew up basically in Brandon, leaving home at 16 and wearing a Wheat King jersey in this league for four years, so it’s definitely going to take getting use to,” said Clague. “I’m excited for this new opportunity, it’s a great team here in Moose Jaw and I’m looking forward to adding to that.”
Clague was honoured before Friday’s game, along with Warriors head coach Tim Hunter, captain Brett Howden and Oil Kings head athletic therapist Brian Cheeseman for being a part of Canada’s gold medal winning World Junior team.
Having Howden and Hunter, who coached Clague and the defencemen for the past two years at the World Juniors, in the Warriors’ locker room made the quick transition to a new team seamless for Clague on Friday.
“It makes it a little more comfortable,” said Clague. “Tim has been great with me so far, he’s a great coach, I’m excited to play for him and I’m going to be able to learn a lot.”
The Warriors made a big splash just after the deadline passed when they announced that they were sending young players Luka Burzan and Chase Hartje, along with three draft picks, to Brandon for Clague.
The Wheat Kings sit third in the WHL, so Clague said he wasn’t expecting to be traded.
“I was pretty shocked,” he said. “We had a good record and there was no talk about me getting moved, but the Wheat Kings did what they have to do to help the organization, nonetheless I’m really excited to be here and help make a push over the second half and into the playoffs.”
Clague registered an assist in his Warrior debut, pushing his season point total to 48 in 29 games.
The Warriors already sport the best offence in the WHL with 218 goals for through 44 games this season and while Clague will help solidify the team’s offence, the help he’ll provide with his defensive game can’t be overlooked.
“Over the last two years, especially this year, I’ve addressed some d-zone areas that I need to improve and just continuing to work on that, so playing a 200-foot game is important to me and part of my offence this year has come from my d-zone,” said Clague.
In his debut, Clague was paired with 18-year-old defenceman, and fellow NHL second round pick, Josh Brook. The duo has the chance develop into one of the best overall tandems in the league over the course of the next 28 games.
“He’s a good 200-foot player and plays the game hard and he’s a great skater, so if we’re both skating well, it’s going to be hard for the other team to fore check on us,” Clague said on his new defensive partner.
Clague brings 25 goals and 144 points in 170 games during his WHL career. He’s also plus-35 on the season after going a plus-four in his debut in Moose Jaw.
Everything about Clague’s game will help the Warriors in all three areas of the game, but it’s his 40 games of playoff experience and two trips to the WHL Final, as well as two World Junior gold medal game appearances, are the biggest things that Clague brings into the locker room.
“I can bring a lot of experience when the game’s on the line and I want to bring in some leadership and I just want to be relied upon, I just want to play big minutes and help this team win,” said Clague.
Clague and the Warriors play a three-in-three this weekend, they travel to Prince Albert on Saturday riding an eight-game winning streak, and then they host Medicine Hat on Sunday afternoon at Mosaic Place, at 4 p.m.