The New Jersey Devils went back to the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League for their second third round pick of the afternoon. After selecting his teammate on defense Nikita Okhotyuk, the Devils selected right winger Graeme Clarke.
Who is Graeme Clarke?
According to Elite Prospects, Clarke is a right-shooting right winger who is 18 years old, stands at 6’0”, and weighs 174 pounds. Immediately, he could stand to get stronger and beefier. Clarke finished his second season with Ottawa of the OHL. After a 14-goal and 25-point while mostly at the age of 16 in 2017-18, Clarke put up 23 goals and 34 points while mostly at the age of 17 in 2018-19. The production increase is good to see. Clarke has not represented Canada at the international level outside of appearing for one of Canada’s U-17 teams at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in 2017-18.
A closer look at his production is a little interesting. In this past season, Clarke had 116 shots in 53 games as per the OHL website. He put up 121 in 63 games in his rookie season, so his rate of shooting the puck increased in addition to his production. According to his player page at Prospect-Stats, despite an estimated ice time similar to a third liner, Clarke produced goals at a rate like a first liner with second-line rates for shots, primary points, and total points. Given that Ottawa was a fairly strong team on paper, I wonder if Clarke would have produced more and received more notice on a team where he would have received more ice time? In any case, he was a productive player given the situation he did have with the 67’s.
What Others Say About Graeme Clarke
I will be adding more information to this post as there are other picks being made. I will direct you first to Alex’s profile of Graeme Clarke that he put up on June 8. Read that first as I will be adding information to not repeat too much from what Alex already wrote, such as David St-Louis’ excellent profile at Habs Eyes on the Prize.
As with any OHL prospects is to go see what Brock Otten of OHL Prospects wrote about the player. In this case, I have good news. Clarke ranked ninth on his final Top 50 OHL Prospects list. That suggests the Devils made a good value pick at 80th overall. Here is a part of Otten’s reasoning for his placement on his list:
On individual skill level, Clarke is near or at the top of this age group in the OHL. His creativity and hands are elite. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen him do the Mike Legg lacrosse goal over the years. Clarke also has one of the best shot releases in the age group and projects as a big time goal scorer at this level and the next. So with all this skill level, why is Clarke 9th and not, say top 5? I think there are very realistic concerns over his skating ability. His stride doesn’t generate a ton of power and we have seen how difficult it can be for goal scorers to transition to the NHL without that elusiveness. Additionally, I wonder how good his vision is as a playmaker. The hands and puck skill are so good, yet they mostly create openings for himself and not necessarily his teammates. Turnovers in the offensive zone can be an issue. However, this is a kid who has clearly worked hard already to improve his faults.
Otten was clearly a fan and it is hard to dispute why. Who does not like a winger who is good at shooting and handling the puck? Those are skills that can come at a premium. This is not to say he has things to improve upon but if he does improve upon them, those skills will stand out even more. He concludes that Clarke has a high ceiling for a second round draft pick. Clarke actually went in the middle of the third round, so that’s a good thing to know.
Dominic Tiano profiled Clarke at OHL Writers and it is a good read. He highlights that Clarke’s shot and his puck-handling skills are great. He even compared his shot release to Arthur Kaliyev, the 51-goal scorer in the OHL that fell out of the first round this year for reasons I could not figure out. Tiano also thinks his vision is quite fine. The concern is whether he can break away with speed - which could hamper him at the next level where many more players are faster - and his play away from the puck. Like Otten, Tiano notes that Clarke made strides of improvement during the season. This may bode well for the future.
A Little Video
While it is from last Summer, here is a shift-by-shift video of Clarke’s performance against Slovakia in the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, a U-18 tournament that is the unofficial start to the prospect season. As titled in the video, Clarke is wearing #9 for Canada and he does score a goal (7:08 into the video):
A Quick Take
Depending on how much you agree with Otten, the Devils appear to have made a good one at 80th overall. That is my current initial reaction: I like this pick. I think that it is worth taking prospects who have strong traits like shooting and puck handling this deep in the draft as opposed to players with more well-rounded games with more limited upside. I think the Devils can afford to take a chance on Clarke as I think if he does rise up at the professional levels, then he could become a real contributor as a scorer. Not as a top line winger, but providing production from a second, third, or fourth line is still value-added to an organization. Knowing the other picks the Devils made on day two, I better appreciate the decision to add a more skilled player at 80th overall.
Now you know my take on him, I want to know what you think. What do you think about the Devils taking Graeme Clarke? Please let me know in the comments and vote in our poll. Thank you for reading.
The Devils drafted Graeme Clarke at 80th Overall. What do you think of the pick?
This poll is closed
I love it!
I like the pick.
I don’t know / I’m in the middle.
I don’t like the pick.
I hate it!