Clarke out to impress scouts, show he belongs

Tuesday, 01.14.2014 / 11:37 PM | Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com Staff Writer

CALGARY -- Saginaw Spirit left wing Blake Clarke has dealt with many off-ice distractions in what should have been a season to impress scouts considering him for the 2014 NHL Draft.

Clarke, No. 93 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, changed teams last month when the North Bay Battalion dealt him to Saginaw in exchange for forward and fellow 2012 first-round Ontario Hockey League draft pick Zach Bratina.

Clarke sustained a shoulder injury in the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh in September that limited him to 21 games with North Bay. He'll play for Team Orr at the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet) with hopes of turning some heads.

"I look at this as a big opportunity for me," Clarke said. "I was invited because people still believe in what I can be as a player in the future, so I have to prove them right.

"I'm definitely disappointed where I was ranked and believe I'm a better player than that and I want to show it [Wednesday]. I have 20 games left in Saginaw and I think, since the trade, I've played closer to my potential, more what I can be like."

Clarke has 20 goals and 59 points in 96 OHL games. He was a second-team all-rookie forward last season and finished third in voting for OHL Rookie of the Year.

"Blake is a good-sized wing who can really skate, is strong and fluid, with NHL speed," Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "After a strong rookie season (19 goals, 32 assists in 68 games), he's been hampered by injuries this season and is slowly working his way back into form. He has a strong shot and that's something he needs to utilize more."

"I want to show I belong [at the Top Prospects Game]," Clarke said. "Obviously I haven't had the success I would have liked with the injuries. I do feel that in the past I proved to myself I can play at this level and I'll prove that again on Wednesday when I play at the level of everyone here."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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