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The ‘Top 25 Avalanche Under 25′ series continues with its third consecutive defenseman in #21 Mat Clark. At 24 years old, Clark is the oldest player featured so far, and edges out #22 Will Butcher, #23 Cody Corbett, and #24 Samuel Henley in large part due to his professional hockey experience.
Our 6 BSN Avalanche writers gave Clark scores ranging from 20th to 24th for an average score of 21.5
Who is Mat Clark?
Clark is a big, gritty defenseman who earns ice time and the respect of his coaches by playing simple, dependable hockey and by working hard in the gritty areas of the ice. At 6’3″ 225 lbs, Clark is physically imposing along the boards and in the corners, but his below average skating and lack of an offensive toolkit limit his ability to impact all 200 feet of the ice.
The bruising blueliner was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for AHL forward Michael Sgarbossa. Clark, who saw 7 games of NHL action with the Ducks this season, played 21 games for the Avalanche’s former affiliate Lake Erie Monsters, registering one assist and providing a steady veteran presence which helped the Monsters’ young and inexperienced blue-line make a late season push for the playoffs.
Across his young career, Mat Clark has 65 points in 305 AHL games, plus 1 assist in 9 NHL appearances. He won’t often make the highlight reels for his offensive play, but he can drop the gloves and hang with some real heavyweight fighters.
What is the future for Mat Clark?
Although Clark ranks 21st overall in our Top 25 Avalanche Under 25, he’s also one of the most developed players on the list and may have the lowest talent ceiling of the group. Unlike some of the players ranked below him, it’s unlikely that Clark’s game grows significantly in the near future. Clark already has 305 AHL games and 7 NHL games on his resume – meaning in all likelihood, what you see is what you get.
In the defensive zone, Clark plays smart but cautious hockey. With limited mobility, Clark plays conservative positionally and doesn’t push the puck up ice when he has it on his stick. In short, Clark doesn’t make a lot of mistakes or put himself in bad spots on the ice, but he also doesn’t create a lot for his team or dictate the pace of the game.
Clark’s overall skill-set probably isn’t good enough to make him a full-time NHL player with the Avalanche, but the impending Restricted Free Agent will likely be re-signed in order to bolster the Avalanche’s AHL blue-line and provide veteran support for the team’s top defensive prospects like Duncan Siemens, Chris Bigras, and Mason Geertsen. At an AHL level, Clark can play tough minutes at even strength and on the penalty kill and should give next year’s San Antonio Rampage some quality defensive depth.