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NHL Mock Draft 2016: Winnipeg Jets select Kale Clague with No. 22 pick

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At the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Winnipeg Jets went somewhat off the board when they drafted Jack Roslovic 25th overall. This year, Winnipeg again finds itself in possession of two 1st round picks. While the No. 2 selection almost announced itself,  when now faced with No. 22, Arctic Ice Hockey is tapping into last year's reaching spirit.

On that note, with the 22nd pick in SB Nation's 2016 NHL Mock Draft, the Winnipeg Jets select Kale Clague.

Kale Clague, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

2015-16 Regular Season: 71 GP, 6 G, 37 A, 43 Pts, +25 +/-, 54 PIM

2015-16 Playoffs: 21 GP, 6 G, 8 A, 14 Pts, +5 +/1, 8 PIM

Arctic Ice Hockey's 2nd overall selection was a unilateral decision by yours truly, but the 22nd pick was put to the staff, with a fierce battle resulting. Clague's most significant contenders were Charlie McAvoy and Lucas Johansen, with Samuel Girard, Logan Stanley and Alex DeBrincat having champions of their own as well. In the end, the votes were tallied and Clague emerged victorious.

And make no mistake, this is somewhat of a reach. Going by the general narrative, Clague would seem more befitting Winnipeg's 2nd round selection rather than Chicago's 22nd overall. A few rankings:

  • Corey Pronman via ESPN: 22nd
  • Damien Cox: 27th
  • NHL Central Scouting (NA skaters): 27th
  • DraftBuzz Hockey: 32nd
  • ISS Hockey: 39th
  • Future Considerations: 39th

Scouting and prospect evaluation can be a beautifully subjective thing, and each AIH contributor brought their own rationale to the table. Personally speaking, the question was whether Clague seemed like the best player available, which came down to how sold I was on Charlie McAvoy. Kale Clague won the day. Clague's being a LHD is at bare minimum icing on the cake, and for some a deciding factor.

In Clague, the Winnipeg Jets would be drafting an incredibly mobile two-way defenceman. While he undoubtedly has offensive ability, his strengths are more anticipation and adept skating rather than raw creativity and elite hands. At 6'0" and 178 lb, Clague's no Logan Stanley, but he's not afraid of playing the body when being fleet of foot isn't enough.

In his NHL Draft Lottery edition rankings, Damien Cox cited Anaheim's Cam Fowler as a comparable, one which seems eminently fair in terms of style and hopefully upside. Last Word on Sports' Ben Kerr sees a player reminiscent of Toronto's Morgan Rielly, while Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst has perhaps the loftiest comparable of all:

Interestingly enough, these latter two suggestions seem to be in line with Clague's own self-assessment. As per a February interview the blueliner had with Kelly Friesen of Buzzing the Net:

1. Do you look up to someone in the NHL?

"I like (Ottawa Senators defender) Erik Karlsson. He’s a dynamic offensive defenceman who has a lot of skill. But I’d say I play more like (Toronto Maple Leafs’) Morgan Rielly or (Chicago Blackhawks’) Duncan Keith. They are more two-way guys who have a lot of offensive skill."

When assessing Clague's 2015-16, there are a few important details to note, beginning with how he played just 20 regular season games the previous year due to injury. Coming off an injury plagued campaign may help to explain why Clague's 2015-16 regular season was a tale of two years:

  • First 37 games: 1 goal, 13 points
  • Remaining 34 games: 5 goals, 30 points

That split, one divided according to the 2015 and 2016 portions of the season respectively, makes for quite a discrepancy. Another factor to keep in mind is how on a WHL Champion Brandon Wheat Kings squad, Clague was third behind Ivan Provorov and Macoy Erkamps on the defensive depth chart. With Erkamps now beginning his professional career and Provorov a possibility to crack Philadelphia's blueline, it'll be exciting to see how Clague is able to spread his wings without one or both of them. (For the record, Clague tied Erkamps for most points by a Brandon defenceman in the 2015-16 playoffs.)

Scouting Reports

Future Considerations:

A very smart, effective two-way blueliner. Uses his offensive instincts and hockey sense coupled with his elite skating and vision to create numerous offensive chances. He shows patience with the puck and poise beyond his years. Defensively, his positioning is solid and he gets himself into shooting lanes. Willing to play physical at times and is strong in the transition game.

Dan Marr, NHL Director of Central Scouting:

Clague's skating is strong and he can elude defenders while being checked or start an offensive play. He has excellent vision when moving the puck, makes a solid first pass out of the zone and is a composed player who makes good choices under pressure.

Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst:

A wiry two-way blueliner with quickness and an exceptional understanding of his position, Clague had a strong enough second half to finish among the WHL’s top scoring draft-eligible rearguards. Even more impressive is that he did so without the benefit of logging big minutes, as he took a back seat to older prospects Ivan Provorov and Macoy Erkamps. The Wheaties may be a stacked team, but there were periods when Clague was the back end’s calming presence, a telling sign about his upside.

Video

Having interviewed with 24 teams at the NHL Scouting Combine, the 18-year-old plans to attend this year's draft in Buffalo, where a couple buffoons in the fan seats hope to loudly cheer his name come 22nd overall.

What's your reaction to our selection of Kale Clague? Would it be wiser for the Winnipeg Jets to roll the dice on his being available at 36th? Are we absolutely insane for passing over Charlie McAvoy? Share your thoughts, questions and concerns in the Comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!