It's almost here. We are less than one month away from training camp, and preseason exhibition. It wasn't until I saw a recent photo of Captain's Practice at the Joe until I was really all that excited for hockey. But since seeing that, all I can think about is Red Wings hockey. So with that being said, we aren't too far out from the annual prospect tournament in Traverse City. An exciting display of select NHL youth from all over the map. A name that has stuck out ever since development camp is Wildwood, Missouri native left-winger Blake Clarke. Blake currently plays for the Saginaw Spirit, and is 18 years old. Clarke went undrafted after a season which showed a very large drop-off in production due to a shoulder injury that throttled his abilities for most of the year and a mid-season trade. Prior to that, he had a spectacular season with North Bay, posting 19 goals and 32 assists in 58 games.
Before the injury, Blake was highly sought after to be a first round lock in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately for him, there wasn't a team willing to take the risk on a player who's production dipped so far, especially not knowing how much that production dip was a result of lingering physical problems and how much was mental. Clarke is still regarded as one of the top 10 undrafted free agents available. So what does he bring to the table exactly? According to scouting, he has the tools to be an elite power forward with a wicked shot, and big frame. A sort of "meat & potatoes" style of play.
Obviously, there is every reason to be weary of Blake due to his dip in production and health issues. But I take this to be an extremely low-risk situation. The risk is that you're burning a 3 year ELC on complete uncertainty if this kid can get his mojo back or not, if he doesn't then you've wasted your time. But on the other hand, if he finds himself and bounces back, you reap the benefits without using a draft pick.
The rotator cuff injury that ailed him throughout his 2013-2014 campaign was sustained in the All-American Prospect game in September. Shoulder injuries are tricky ones, but with time and proper treatment, they can be water under the bridge. Thankfully, it's not an ACL or a back injury that would be considered a longterm concern.
Blake Clarke made an impact at Development Camp and was an obvious standout among all the camp invitees. He has earned himself an invite to the Prospect Tournament along with some other camp invites, so I think the message is clear: Detroit is interested in this kid. They see something in him that they like, and it will be interesting to see how they go about this. Keep in mind, he can re-enter the draft next year. So it's not like you have an unlimited amount of time with him. If he bounces back and has a killer season with Saginaw in the OHL, you could have missed out on a low-risk, high-reward player. This post is meant to strike up a conversation for us all, do you have any undrafted 18 year old players that you're aware of? Two of which that come to mind, who are acclaimed to be in the top 10 of all undrafted players are Blake Clarke and Joe Hicketts. As we saw with the signing of Tomas Nosek, we may see the Wings bolster their depth with undrafted free agents who have high upside.
Here is a video of an interview he did during Development Camp:
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