The Devils’ top-six forward crew is home to a hired gun, a homegrown stud and a player returning to the scene of his greatest triumph.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Jason Arnott, the man who scored the overtime Cup-winner for Jersey in 2000, will all be counted on for big things as the Devils move toward being a more goal-hungry club under new coach John MacLean.
Travel a little further down the depth chart and you’ll find another player ready for (relatively) big things in David Clarkson.
Now 26, Clarkson is primed to make good on the promise many have recognized in him for a couple of seasons. Following a 17-goal performance in 2008-09, his progression was stalled by an injury-plagued campaign last year in which he totaled just 11 goals in 46 contests.
Known for his grinding style of play, Clarkson is right at the age when players of that ilk tend to hit their stride. For a past precedent, look west to San Jose left winger Ryane Clowe. His first scoring success came at age 24 when he tallied 16 goals in an injury-shortened 58-game campaign. The next year was almost entirely lost to a knee ailment, then, at 26, he popped a career-high 22 goals in 2008-09. Clowe’s past two single-season point totals have been 52 and 57; he’s glimpsed slightly more offensive potential than Clarkson, but the latter is still fully capable of scoring in the 20-goal, 50-point range.
And if you’re trolling rosters for potential late-round gems in your fantasy pool, Clarkson’s past two full-season penalty minute totals are 164 and 183.
Squeezing Kovalchuk into the team’s salary structure will require some shuffling of the forward deck, meaning when the dust settles, there will be more ice time available for Clarkson to prove himself – provided he doesn’t end up being part of the shuffle.
Moreover, when you look at the fact Jersey has been unable to get out of the first round of the playoffs the past three years, you can’t help but wonder if a hard-nosed guy who can net some greasy goals wouldn’t go a long way in helping the Devils get over the post-season hump.
Nobody is expecting David to become a scoring Goliath, but the opportunity is certainly there for Clarkson to carve out a vital niche on one of the Devils’ top two lines.
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