NHL.com will periodically be doing a series called "Five Questions With …," a Q&A with some of the key figures in the game today aimed to gain insight into their lives and careers.
This edition features New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson:
NEWARK, N.J. -- David Clarkson has gone from an undrafted, unknown, unproven, 21-year-old free agent to a 30-goal scorer and one of the most important players on the New Jersey Devils.
He's become a voice of reason inside the Devils' dressing room and a go-to threat in all phases of the game on the ice. He's developed a close friendship with future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur, one that extends off the ice to their wives. Clarkson also has taken on an active role as a Devils' representative for the fast-growing Hockey in Newark program.
This season, Clarkson started out on fire with 10 goals in the first 14 games, a 34-goal pace in a 48-game season. He's cooled of late with no goals in the past 12 games, but he'll try to come out of his slumber in NBC Sports Network's Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center.
Clarkson spoke to NHL.com after practice Tuesday about his goals, his slump, his rise to the NHL, his friendship with Brodeur, and the Flyers.
Here are Five Questions With … David Clarkson:
When you were younger and trying to prove yourself in the NHL, did you ever consider the fact that you could be a 30-goal scorer in this League, ever fathom something like that for yourself?
"I don't want to say, 'Yes, I knew I was going to get to that.' You always have goals in the beginning of the season and I think I was very fortunate to be given an opportunity by the coach [Peter DeBoer]. When you go out there you have to do it, but I was given a chance and playing with some pretty good players.
"But to answer the question, did I ever think I would be it, I have to say no. I don't think I was ever the one that said I was going to do this. I always have goals every year and last year I achieved higher than I thought. But you have to get better every summer to lean toward that."
This year you started out on fire, but you've gone cold since. Can you pinpoint why, and how do you go about changing that now?
"I think as a team we are not really scoring. I don't think we're playing bad, but we're just not getting those bounces or maybe those opportunities we were getting early in the season. So personally, [Wednesday night], I'm going to get back to shooting that puck, getting around that net, get back to doing those things. I don't think any of us are playing bad, but for me, it's about getting back into those areas and hopefully putting the puck in.
"I don't know if that is lacking; I'm still getting opportunities, but hockey is a game of ups and downs and I've played in the League long enough to just keep pushing forward. I have to keep doing what I'm doing, but hopefully start to get those bounces."
Let's go back to those years when you weren't drafted -- were you expecting to be drafted and got frustrated that you weren't, or was it that you just weren't expecting much at all so there was no reason to be frustrated?
"I was a late-round draft pick to the OHL and I was never drafted to the NHL, which I never expected to be. I always dreamed of that, but the longer it went on and not being signed, I didn't give up on the dream -- I always dreamed of playing here -- so I don't want to say I was disappointed. I was a young kid, I liked to fight, and not much bothered me back then.
"But the older I got and the more mature I got, and having a coach that believed in me, I started realizing that I could do this, I could maybe play in the AHL [American Hockey League]. The more opportunities I got, the more I pushed myself. You have to believe in yourself to be successful at this level.
Right Wing - NJD
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 18
SOG: 92 | +/-: -2
"When your buddies are getting drafted and you're not, then I'm playing in my over-age year and I'm still not getting any offers, nothing, that was tough. But I was fortunate to have a family around me that is very supportive, people that told me never to give up, and I ended up here."
One thing that is interesting is, despite the 12-year difference in age, you and Martin Brodeur are very tight and your wives are very close as well. How did that relationship develop?
"You know what, he was someone that took care of me when I came in this locker room. It was him, John Madden, Colin White, Jamie Langenbrunner -- these veteran guys, I don't know, I didn't talk much and I just liked to fight, so there was something about that that they liked. They would invite me out to dinners, and I got close to Marty especially. He's somebody that has been there for me since I was young. We spend a lot of time together in the offseason as well. He's someone I have a ton of respect for. What he's done on the ice is great, but it doesn't mean much to me because of the person he is in this room, how he treats me and my family and everyone in this room. He's just really special."
Let's talk about the Flyers, particularly the rivalry -- since you've been involved in it is there one moment in the Devils-Flyers rivalry that sticks out as your favorite moment?
"It could be a fight or anything, but I don't know about a favorite time. What I do know is I love playing these guys. It's like playoff hockey. It's physical. There are scrums. It's like playing the Rangers. This is one of the most fun teams for me that we play against."