Graeme Clarke is a taller right winger hailing from Ottawa, and who has played his major junior hockey for his hometown Ottawa 67’s in the OHL. He stands at 6 foot even, a good height for a hockey player. At this point, he weighs a lighter 174 pounds, but I am positive that he will realize the importance of bulking up some, and probably will sooner than later.
With two full seasons in the OHL, and some decent production there, the odds of him being drafted are solid. However, he also has not produced at a seriously high clip in the regular seasons for Ottawa, and has only sparse international experience thanks to a strong Canadian squad being put forth year after year. That will suppress his draft stock sadly. To the positive, however, his best production has arguably come when it’s needed the most: the playoffs. Being clutch will help any player get drafted higher. So there really could be a wide range of potential draft positions for the right winger.
Who is Graeme Clarke?
Like many NHL draft prospects, Graeme dominated Midget hockey. In 2016-17, he crushed it for the Toronto Marlboros, posting 136 points in 81 games. Making the jump to the OHL was the big equalizer, however, and tells us a lot more. In his first year with the 67’s, he produced 25 points in 63 games, but 14 of those 25 points came as goals. That has been a consistent throughout his career so far: more of his points come as goals than assists, always.
This past year for Ottawa, he improved his goal production, but not his assists, remaining at 11 across 55 regular season games. However, he added 9 more goals, upping his point total on the year to 34. This is nothing crazy, 0.62 points per game, but it is not terrible by any means. You would look at it and might think he has potential, but not as a top liner.
Where he thrived this year, however, as I mentioned above, was in clutch games. Ottawa had a strong playoff run this year in the OHL, making it all the way to the championship round before losing in 6 games to the Guelph Storm. That gave Clarke 18 playoff games of experience to put on his resume before this year’s draft, and he made the absolute most of it. He produced 14 points in those 18 games, 7 goals and 7 helpers. Four of those goals were on the man advantage as well. That point total was good for 7th on the team, which doesn’t seem exceptional, but still, putting together a 0.78 point percentage in the postseason will help his draft stock.
As I mentioned above as well, he does not have lots of international experience, which will not help him. That is the downside to being Canadian, where lots of talent resides. Graeme played for Canada’s White U17 team at the World Hockey Championships in 2017-18, and this past season played U18 at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He has 8 points in those 11 international games combined, good numbers, so that is not a true negative, it just would be better with more experience in this department.
Mitch Brown’s scouting report on Clarke, which we can view for free thanks to Habs Eyes on the Prize, is mostly positive, but not without flaws. His expected goals per 60 and shots per 60 are great, as are his primary shot assists per 60. Defensively, he is also great at generating lots of controlled zone exits. Negatively, however, he is clearly not involved too much defensively, as his backcheck involvement is minimal. He is also only average in expected primary assists per 60, instead focusing more on his shot.
Where is Clarke Ranked?
Central Scouting ranks Clarke as the #45 North American skater, and gave him a nice boost after the midterm rankings, where he was #56. That is the difference between a definite second round grade to perhaps an early third round grade.
-Future Considerations, in sharp contrast to Central Scouting, does NOT have Clarke ranked in their top 100.
-The Draft Analyst does have him in his top 100, but unlike Central Scouting, dropped him from the midterm to the April rankings. At the midterm, Steve had him at #65, but now he is at #92 overall. Here you’re looking at a late third round selection.
-The Hockey Writers, in their May rankings, are much in line with the Draft Analyst, ranking Clarke right at #100, an early fourth round choice.
-Draft Site is even lower on him, projecting him to go 117 overall to Nashville, mid-fourth round.
-Dobber Prospects is higher on him than the last two, ranking him #75 overall.
What Others Have Said About Clarke
A month ago, the Hockey Writers wrote up a prospect profile on Clarke. The author, Joseph Aleong, notes that Clarke played in a bottom 6 role in his first year because the team was stacked with veterans, and this year when he could shine more, his year was cut a little short by some injury, although he was definitely a key cog in the team’s playoff run. Graeme’s strengths, he says, are his wrist shot, his offensive awareness and his puckhandling ability. Where he needs to improve, however, is his aggressiveness on offense, his defensive consistency, his defensive zone awareness, and his strength in the corners. As a short concluding blurb, Aleong writes:
“Clarke hasn’t quite had the opportunity to fully showcase his talent playing for a stacked Ottawa team, but his wrist shot and ability to find open space on offense are developed well beyond his age. However, he must learn to become more consistent game-to-game and continue to develop his skating stride if he wants to grow into a role as a middle-six scoring winger at the professional level.”
Habs Eyes on the Prize once again have a quality write up, David St. Louis doing a great job over there. Some positive comments about his game: “The puck flies off his blade. He doesn’t need much of a windeup to pick his spot. He also fires deceptively at times”...”He has quick hands and can elevate” And some limitations: “needed to be set up for many of his chances this season”...”wasn’t creatively moving the defence around and creating shooting or passing lanes”...”his skating holds him back”...”he lacks the explosiveness or the speed necessary to make his stickhanding moves that much more effective.” In the end, St. Louis predicts that he will not hear his name called until at least the third round, but does have potential to become a top six player one day if the chips fall the right way.
A Little Video
Here is a shift by shift video of him from last summer at the Hlinka against Slovakia:
Here is a rather fun goal you definitely should watch from last season:
Here is a goal and an assist against Mississauga from early this season:
Here he is again at the Hlinka from last summer, this one against the Swiss:
I have to say, as I have researched and thought about Clarke, the more interested I become because he is a right winger and the New Jersey Devils are definitely in need of that position. I was not initially too excited, but I can see the value. People seem to think that he has top 6 potential if everything pans out right, which is not something you can say about most third round selections. That might not pan out, but it means there is an even better shot he does make it as a bottom 6 contributor, and if NJ gets a consistent third or fourth line right winger out of a third round choice, you would have to be pleased with that.
I can see not taking him: he is not defensively sound yet, and seems to not really place too much stock in backchecking, especially as we can now see that thanks to Mitch Brown’s data tracking. He also is not a huge producer either, only producing a little over a half point per game, and mostly relying on shooting only, not really involving himself too too much in generating primary assists. But then again, the Devils need shooters, people who will think shot first, pass second. It seems most of their offensive contributors are pass-first types of guys, perhaps Kyle Palmieri as an exception. To have another who focuses on shooting would be beneficial.
So I guess what I am saying is that I would understand and be fine with any outcome here, as long as Ray Shero doesn’t reach for him. The Devils have picks #70 and #80 in the third round, and #96 in the fourth. Some rankings have #70 as an appropriate landing spot, but I think #80 is definitely achievable, and #96 could be as well if he goes more in line with some of the more negative rankings. I would be pleased with him at #96, but I don’t think I would complain either to see him go at #80. I would squirm some to see him taken at #70, but even then I could see the potential for Clarke to prove me wrong and succeed, and would be very thankful for it.
Now that you have read up on him, what do you think about Graeme Clarke? Do you agree with me that he has holes in his game that need to be filled, and perhaps some of the more conservative rankings of him are better indicators of where he should go? Would a late third/early fourth rounder be a good spot for Shero to nab him? Or are you higher on his potential, thinking he has a good shot to be a top six contributor one day? Where would you be interested in taking the right winger? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!