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Canmore NHL prospect hoists Clark Cup

After Clark Cup victory, focus turns to 2024 NHL draft.

FARGO – It was a playoff run unlike anything that NHL prospect Finn McLaughlin had experienced before and it ended exactly how every hockey player dreams.

The Fargo Force were crowned Clark Cup champions on Saturday (May 18) in a moment the 18-year-old defenceman from Canmore won’t soon forget.

“I was just so excited, like, throwing gloves and hugging everybody and just screaming,” said McLaughlin. “It was so exciting and happy and just seeing all the hard work we put in throughout the year as a team, and me, individually, seeing it all pay off was unreal.”

The Force defeated the Dubuque Fighting Saints, 3-1, in Game 4 of the United States Hockey League (USHL) finals in the best-of-five series, winning the franchise’s second Clark Cup.

The USHL is the top junior hockey league under the USA Hockey banner.

McLaughlin has gotten close to winning it all, taking home silver at the 2022 Five Nations Cup and bronze at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Team USA, but the dual citizen was missing one big championship trophy.

McLaughlin’s journey to the USHL’s top prize started in February when the two-way defender was acquired at the trade deadline from the Youngstown Phantoms, along with forward and San Jose Sharks draft pick Brandon Svoboda, as the No. 1 seeded Force bolstered its line-up for a deep playoff run.

The deal involved 2024 and 2025 draft picks going back to Youngstown and future considerations going both ways.

With the new additions, the Force rocketed to a historic USHL season, winning the most games in league history (50-10-2). One highlight for McLaughlin with his new club was against his former team in the regular season when he scored the game-winning goal, his only of the season.

In the playoffs, the Force had a 9-3 record. The champs mostly ran over the competition, with the exception of the Sioux City Musketeers, which had the Force on the ropes after going up 2-1 in the series.

“It was a real testament to the team and their will,” said Force general manager Cary Eades on Hot Mic with Dom Izzo. “We hadn’t faced a lot of adversity throughout the year, everything had gone so smoothly, so that was our biggest test for sure. To come out and win 5-0 and 4-0 in the two elimination games just shows the strength of this team, how we could pull together and how we could close out a series and close out a game and that was again evident in the finals."

McLaughlin, who’s listed as six-foot-one and 190 pounds, is capable of handling the puck on an offensive attack as he is killing off a power play. However, in the postseason, McLaughlin’s consistency on the blueline was utilized by the Force, a role he bought into immediately.

“[The Force] got a lot of faith in me and we’re all really excited for next year and the opportunities it brings,” he said.


A post shared by Fargo Force (@fargoforce)


Now that the Clark Cup celebrations are mostly over, the next major buzz for young prospects like McLaughlin is who will go where at the big show.

The Canmore lefty said he’s spoken to a few NHL teams about the upcoming 2024 NHL Entry Draft between June 28-29 this year in Las Vegas.

“It’s definitely something on my mind,” said McLaughlin.

Among North American skaters, McLaughlin’s ranked 132. Typically, 224 players are selected by 32 teams over seven rounds at the annual draft.

“I’m not going to overthink anything about it,” he said. “Obviously it would be an incredible honour to be drafted, but if it doesn’t work out there’s next year too and it’s not the end of the world either. 

“Either way, I’m going throughout my day and trying to be the best I can be.”


From Captain Canada Ryan Smyth to “Hat Trick” coiner Alex Kaleta, the Bow Valley has a storied history of locals playing in the NHL.

In 2024, there are two skaters from the area who have suited up for clubs.

Defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker was the last player from Canmore drafted into the NHL, when he was selected 26th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 2018. He’s played 104 games with the Sens.

Forward Luke Philp from Canmore, currently signed to a two-way contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, went undrafted but made his NHL debut in 2023. Mostly playing for the Blackhawks farm team, Philp has played three games with the big club.

For the Canmore Eagles, forward Alex Young was the last player from the local Junior A club to be drafted to the NHL. He was selected in the seventh round (196th overall) by the San Jose Sharks in 2020. He has yet to make his NHL debut and spent the 2023-24 season with Arizona State University in the NCAA and moved to the East Coast Hockey League with Adirondack Thunder.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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