It’s not as though Clarkson, who hails from just outside of Toronto, was
lacking solid credentials, traits that would make him an attractive pick for any
But for whatever reason, the feisty forward who showcased physical prowess
and capable offensive skills, didn’t hear his name called during the NHL Draft.
Clarkson, in typical fashion, didn’t give up the fight.
“There certainly weren’t any guarantees and at one time, I wasn’t quite sure
if I would ever make it,” said Clarkson, who scored 17, 22 and 33 goals,
respectively, in his three Ontario Hockey League seasons with Kitchener (he also
appeared in three games with Belleville Bulls), winning a Memorial Cup with the
Rangers in 2003.
“You can’t always control your own destiny. All you can do is
work hard and hopefully, someone sees something in you that they think would
make a good fit for their team.”
Enter the New Jersey Devils.
After a 54-point campaign in just 31 games with Kitchener in 2004-05,
Clarkson, then 21, was signed as a free agent by the Eastern Conference squad.
He was assigned to the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League one
month later. He went on to play the majority of the 2006–2007 season with the
Devils’ new farm team, the Lowell Devils, before being a late season call-up to
Clarkson appeared in his first game on March 15, 2007 at Carolina. Two days
later, he scored his first NHL goal, and recorded his first assist in a 7–2 loss
to the Carolina Hurricanes. In seven games, he contributed four points.
The following season, Clarkson took part in the "Young Stars” game in Atlanta
during the 56th NHL All-Star Game event, scoring once and adding two
Not bad for a player who at one time wasn’t on the radar of any NHL
“I’ve tried to bring a style of hockey where people hopefully say, ‘That guy
is giving it his all and goes hard each time he’s on the ice,’” said Clarkson,
who had an NHL career-best 17 goals in 2008-09, appearing in all 82 regular
“I suppose it comes down to a belief in yourself and a realization
that you can always get better at something.”
Clarkson, who had 24 points in 46 games in 2009-10, also understands a tough
campaign isn’t always a negative.
“Last year, I don’t think anyone in our room could put up their hand and say
it was a good one,” offered Clarkson, who tallied 12 times in a season that saw
the Devils miss out on the Eastern Conference playoffs. “It was a tough year.
I worked on some things over the summer, hoping it would make a difference this
His blueprint for success certainly seemed to be a well-designed one.
Already in double digits in goals, Clarkson is playing some of the best
hockey of his career; combining his physicality with a touch of offence, as New
Jersey seeks a return to the post-season.
“I want to be the player who is out on the ice with a minute left and the
game is on the line,” he offered.
"Maybe I block a shot trying to keep a 1-0 lead, or maybe it’s something else that can help get us the win.”
It’s just the way his childhood idol, Wendel Clark, played the game.
“The way he’d score a big goal or take the guy down in a big fight, I always
admired the way he played,” said Clarkson, of the veteran of 736 NHL games who
was known as ‘Captain Crunch.’
He laughs when he recalls meeting Clark at recent Hall of Fame inductee Doug
Gilmour’s house a few years ago.
“Doug had a charity bowling tournament and invited a few guys back to his
place after,” recalled Clarkson, who was honoured with the Ted Scharf Award in
2002-03 and 2003-04 for being the Kitchener Rangers Humanitarian of the Year.
“I turn around and there’s Wendel Clark. He said something like, ‘Hi, David, it’s
nice to meet you.’ Then, it was dead quiet. There I am, at 24 years old, and I
Clarkson, however, isn’t at a loss for words when it comes to his career and
how things have panned out.
“You think about those times when you played seven games in three days at a
tournament, or when you were on the outdoor rink and you’d be out there for a
long time, come in for dinner, and then be right back out,” offered the
27-year-old, whose Clarky’s Kids charity helps Kitchener families dealing with
“To be where I am now, it’s been great. There was a time where
there was a perception I wasn’t big enough or tough enough to play at this
level, but I’m glad the way things have gone.”
Even better, David Clarkson will proudly tell you, than he could have ever
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.