Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Undrafted to the NHL: Clarkson and Greene
Clarkson isn't just the leader of the team in penalty minutes (65) - he's been contributing on the box score with 3 goals and 4 assists while rotating between the top 6 forwards and the third line. His talents has allowed him to play many roles: pest, physical presence, defensive forward, net-crasher, and others. He's got a strong shot, he's got little fear on the ice, and he's pretty strong. He certainly impressed me last season in his first NHL game back in March, and with his entire short call-up with the Devils last season. I said he reminded me of a young Randy McKay and he's definitely playing like it. He's becoming a fan favorite here, but he really showed what he could in that short call-up and it's great that he's continuing to play the way he does.
Greene didn't come out of left field like Clarkson. OK, Greene, like Clarkson, was undrafted and the Devils scouts sought him out for a professional contract. Unlike Clarkson, Greene was very good coming straight out of Miami of Ohio and into the Devils training camp. He spent 56 games in Lowell primarily due to salary cap reasons, and back in late February, I thought that the Devils traded David Hale to create the cap space for them to call up Greene. And, lo and behold, I was right as Greene was called up soon after and played 23 regular season games with New Jersey as well as all 11 playoff games. He looked pretty good to start with then. Now, Greene is in a top 4 defenseman spot and he doesn't look out of place. Don't get me wrong, he can improve and he'll need to - but given that he looks alright with his current workload, I would expect him to get even better. Moreso if/when Sutter realizes that Sutter has some offensive skills and puts Greene on the power play. Again, an undrafted player that wasn't really heralded except for the hardcore Devils fans who knew about his potential from drips and drabs of information until he got onto the ice and played. Again, playing in a full season opened up even more eyes.
It's great that Mirtle - and presumably anyone else - recognizes players like Clarkson and Greene. However, I want to take it a step further by stating that these two players are proof that you don't necessarily need to be a highly regarded prospect or a first-round draft pick or even a draft pick at all to contribute to a NHL hockey team. The fact that the Devils discovered them and helped develop them to be who they are today (and who they will be tomorrow) speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the Devils' scouting and the Devils organization for taking a chance and signing them. The important thing to consider is good players with talent and skills come from all possible areas. It may surprise you, but I'm sure those in the organization who see them practice and play every day would tell you it's not much of a surprise at all.