(Marc Smith/DiscoverMooseJaw) Kale Clague became the first Moose Jaw Warriors player to win the Western Hockey League’s Bill Hunter Memorial Award on Thursday.
“It’s a great honour to be recognized as the top defenceman in the WHL, this league has a ton of tradition and it’s a tremendous honour to be in the category of all the great defenceman that have won this award before me and all the defenceman in the league currently,” Clague told the crowd in Red Deer after accepting the award.
The Warriors went one-for-three at the 2018 WHL Awards in Red Deer with Clague taking home the Defenceman of the Year honour, but two others coming up short.
Warriors forward Jayden Halbgewachs won the Bobby Clark Award as the league’s Top Scorer after posting 70 goals and 129 points this season. That wasn’t enough to get him the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as Player of the Year with Everett goalie Carter Hart edging out Halbgewachs for the award.
General Manager Alan Millar also lost out to Everett’s Garry Davidson for Executive of the Year.
Clague was up for his award against Western Conference nominee Cal Foote of the Kelowna Rockets. Clague, who was acquired by the Warriors at the WHL Trade Deadline, finished the season with 11 goals and 71 points in just 54 games split between Moose Jaw and Brandon.
Clague felt that his growth on the defensive side of the puck was what helped separate him from the pack over the course of the season.
“My defensive game has come around. Over the last few years, I’ve put a focus on that. The offensive side has always come naturally to me and I just wanted to work on my D zone and this year, in doing that, that helped me produce better numbers offensively,” said Clague.
The Lloydminster, Alba. product was originally selected by the Wheat Kings with the sixth overall pic in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. He won a WHL Championship in Brandon in 2016 and played three-and-a-half seasons with the Wheat Kings.
The Warriors sent 17-year-olds Luka Burzan and Chase Hartje, as well as two first round picks and a second round pick to Brandon in exchange for the World Junior gold medallist.
He said he enjoyed his time in Moose Jaw, even if it ended early than they had hoped in the playoffs.
“Moose Jaw was great and it was a great experience, I had great teammates, great organization and staff, they welcomed me in with open arms and the crowds in Moose Jaw were awesome and getting to play in that new rink was awesome,” he said. “It ended a little earlier than we had hoped, but the overall experience was awesome, I love the city of Moose Jaw and Moose Jaw always has a spot in my heart now.”
Clague joined the Ontario Reign, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, right after the Warriors’ season wrapped up.
Going into the offseason, the second round NHL draft pick has his sights set on playing in the National Hockey League next season.
“I need to continue to work on my overall game,” he said. “I’m going to train hard this summer to put on ten pounds of muscle that I want to be able to put on and help me moving into pro with bigger and stronger guys. Then just to continue to work on my skill, my skating and defensive zone, so I’m looking forward to the fall and getting going there.”
Clague finished his WHL career with 26 goals, 167 points and a plus-58 rating in 195 career games.