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Clarke discusses playing in Slovakia on 'NHL Draft Class' podcast

Top defenseman prospect on language barrier, playing with brother; CHL president talks return to play

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Brandt Clarke, a top prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft, said he's adjusting well on and off the ice with Nove Zamky in the Slovak Extraliga, the top professional league in Slovakia.

Clarke (6-foot-1, 180 pounds), who does not have a point in eight games, is playing there on loan from Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League while awaiting the OHL to start its season. Last season, the 17-year-old led OHL rookie defensemen with 38 points (six goals, 32 assists) in 57 games.

"It's been a change," Clarke said on the "NHL Draft Class" podcast Wednesday. "My first couple games I was shocked with how fast it was, how strong they were, especially since they were in midseason form and I hadn't played a game since mid-March. That was definitely an adjustment. Now I feel really good. Last game I played 26 minutes. I feel like I'm doing really well, I feel like I'm getting a lot of shots through, I made a couple breakaway passes, gave some chances for guys in the slot. ... It's definitely been an adjustment. It's a good league for sure, lot of talent. It's definitely been different from the OHL."

Clarke also discussed his winding path to Slovakia, being able to play there for a time with his brother, Graeme Clarke, who is a New Jersey Devils prospect, and what he's been doing on his off days.

"I can't really see much," he said. "Usually when you go to Europe you can go sightseeing, off ice how much fun it is. But it's been different. I don't have that many good stories to tell anyone. It's just my apartment, the grocery store and the rink. Those are the only places I get to hang out."

Canadian Hockey League president Dan MacKenzie also joined the show to discuss his hopes that the CHL and its three leagues, the OHL, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League, can all return to play this season

The QMJHL is scheduled to resume in four secure zones starting Friday, but it was announced Wednesday that the six teams based in the Maritimes provinces would have their games Friday and Saturday postponed.

Potential start dates for the WHL and OHL are unknown, but the WHL announced a commitment to play at least 24 games. The OHL is still working on its protocols for a return to play.

"What overrides everything for us is going to be player safety and making sure that the local health authorities in the places where we play are onside with our approach," McKenzie said.

The podcast is free, and listeners can subscribe on all podcast platforms, including iTunes, Spotify and Google Podcasts. It also is available on NHL.com/multimedia/podcasts and the NHL app.

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