The New Jersey Devils weren’t supposed to see any of Graeme Clarke’s games unless they went up to Ottawa to watch the 67’s play in the OHL, but the season never came about due to the pandemic. There’s rumblings it could still happen somehow, but it’s April and it appears the 19 year old is going to spend his whole season in Binghamton (which is actually in Newark).
The Binghamton Devils season has been a tire fire. They’ve won a paltry four games. Their 13 points in 17 games is last in the North Division. The goaltending and defense has been a major problem, and then when they do have a good game, the offense does not step up.
There’s a ton of talent on this Binghamton team. Nolan Foote, Reilly Walsh, Michael Vukojevic, and Kevin Bahl were added to a roster along with Clarke. After their run to a playoff position, it was expected that head coach Mark Dennehy could get this team to true contention. There were a lot of road blocks, and now the team is back in the basement, but there are some positives.
Graeme Clarke deserves to get a shot in the NHL this season.
The main positive of all is the play of Clarke. He started off slow, but he’s been scoring at will as of late. Even when he doesn’t end up on the scoresheet, he still scores.
The Devils needed every single Binghamton shootout goal to win on Monday night. Clarke almost broke the hockey world with an attempt at “The Michigan” over the weekend that came ridiculously close to being his sixth goal of the season.
He’s able to do whatever he wants out there, and more than anything else Clarke wants to score. He has shown he can do that at the pro level despite still being a teenager. Coming into this season, Clarke needed to prove he could stay healthy. Shoulder issues really derailed his progression the last two seasons, but they seem to be behind him now. He’s playing at a high level, and he might be a long-term solution to the Devils scoring woes.
Is Clarke traditionally NHL ready? Absolutely not, but this isn’t a normal year. With the taxi squad, a lack of OHL teams, and a condensed schedule, it could give opportunities to players that would usually be playing somewhere else. That could provide an opportunity for Clarke to get a shot he would have never dreamed would come this season.
The Devils are going to trade Kyle Palmieri any day now. Nikita Gusev might not be too far behind him. The Devils might even decide to trade Travis Zajac, Miles Wood, or another forward that could come with really good value on a very strange market. Once some pieces move out of the forward positions, the Devils will need to replace them. They will likely look at current taxi squad pieces like Mikhail Maltsev and Jesper Boqvist, but Clarke deserves a game or two in the NHL. Let’s see if this talent translates to the NHL now, and see if he could be as much a part of the present as he is a part of the future.