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New Jersey Devils: Why David Clarkson Can Improve on the Best Year of His Career

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16:  David Clarkson #23 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his third period goal as Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers reacts in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 16, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Joseph KuchieCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2012

One of the key reasons to the New Jersey Devils success last year was the improvement of forward David Clarkson—who set career highs in goals (30), assists (16) and points (46). 

Clarkson had the benefit of working with Alexei Ponikarovsky, Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac for most of the season, opening up the ice for him and allowing him to get good looks.

Now, with Ponikarovsky and Zach Parise both gone, there may be more ice time for Clarkson to shine.

According to NHL.com, Clarkson could see time on the team's second line along with Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias. Elias led the team in assists last year with 52, while Henrique was fourth with 35—both were in the top four in points.

Although Elias had one of his best season in years, he has only cracked 30 goals once since 2005-2006. However, he has averaged nearly 40 assists a year in that span, meaning Clarkson could see more chances playing with the veteran winger.

As we saw with Kovalchuk and Parise, Henrique also has the ability to spread the puck and become a playmaker when it matters most. While Henrique may still score 25 goals next season, he can still lure the defense toward him and open up the ice for Clarkson to score.

Getting more opportunities will be key to Clarkson's development next season. He took a career high 228 shots last year, scoring a career high 30 goals as a result.

Back in 2008-2009, Clarkson had his previous high of 17 goals when he took a then career high 158 shots on goal.

The one concern will be his penalty minutes, as Clarkson has averaged over 110 PIM in four of the last five seasons. He ranked ninth in the NHL with 138 penalty minutes last season, yet still managed to finish in the top 30 in goals scored.

NHL.com's Matt Cubeta believes Clarkson will have a regression from last year, saying "he has never scored more than 17 goals in his previous four seasons."

If Clarkson can stay out of the penalty box and take advantage of playing with great line mates in Elias and Henrique, he could not only score 30 goals but possibly improve from last year.

 

Do you think Clarkson will regress? Leave your comments. Follow me on Twitter @jkuchie

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