David Clarkson's 30 Goals in 2011-12 Places Him In Unique Company

Raise your hand if you thought David Clarkson would score 30 goals last year. If your hand is up, your pants are on fire. After struggling in 2010-11, the first year of his three year contract (12 goals in 82 games), Clarkson bounced back with a career year to be one of three Devils (Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise) to notch 30 goals for New Jersey in 2011-12.. Clarkson was an unlikely candidate as any to reach this number as his previous career high of 17 goals in 2008-09 seemed to indicate that we shouldn't hope for more than a 17-22 goal output. But due to increased confidence in him from the coaching staff, more opportunities on the power play (3:03 PP TOI per game compared to 1:39 the year before) and some lucky bounces Clarkson was able to go from roster albatross to key contributor in one year.

30 goals is a very good achievement for any player during a season. Last year there were only 30 players in the entire NHL who were able to score that many. Curious to see what type of company Clarkson had in the 30 goal club I looked up the players who scored that many goals last year and more importantly, where they might have been drafted. As most of us are aware David Clarkson was signed out of the CHL as an undrafted free agent. When I think of 30 goal scorers, the words ‘undrafted free agent' doesn't normally spring to mind. I think of players drafted in the first round. Was Clarkson the needle in the haystack of 30 goal scorers last year?

After the jump I look at skaters who scored 30 goals in the NHL last year, highlight where they were drafted and also look at the exclusive club of 30 goal scorers, post-lockout, that went undrafted.

Top_goal_scorers-2012_medium

Looking at the listing of 30 goal scorers above, you see a lot of big names: Kovalchuk, Steven Stamkos, Rick Nash, Evgeni Malkin. In fact the majority of the 30 goal scorers from last season were former first round picks. 21 (70%) of the 30 players were drafted in the first round, 14 of those in the top 5 of the first round. Only 9 players were drafted after the first round with only 5 players being selected after round three. David Clarkson is the only player to score 30 goals last year that was never drafted.

Top_goal_scorers-2012-2_medium

(All stats, draft information, etc generated from NHL.com and Hockeydb.com)

That said, it's important to note that Matt Moulson was drafted in the 9th round in 2003 and Michael Ryder was drafted in the 8th round in 1998. After the lockout the draft was reduced to 7 rounds so it's possible those players could have ended up going undrafted.

That note aside, Clarkson is in a pretty interesting club. Looking back at 30 goal scorers since the lockout, Clarkson is the one of only five undrafted players to score 30 goals in a season:

Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver Canuck: 35 goals in 2009-10

Andy McDonald, Anahiem Ducks (currently with the St. Louis Blue): 34 goals in 2005-06

Jason Blake, New York Islanders (last with the Anaheim Ducks): 40 goals in 2006-07.

Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning: At least 30 goals in 5 seasons, 43 goals in 2006-07

EDIT: As user AustralianDevil notes below, Dustin Penner was also an undrafted free agent who scored 30 goals in 2009-10. I can't believe I missed the pancake guy.

Blake, McDonald and St. Louis all played college hockey while Burrows was signed out of the QMJHL. Clarkson is from the OHL. St. Louis is clearly the elite player in the group above, but that doesn't take away from the careers the other players have carved out for themselves in becoming 2/3rd line 20-25 goal scorers. Hopefully that type of production awaits Clarkson in the future.

In 2011-12 David Clarkson surprised many with his goal scoring ability. I am not one that thinks he will hit the 30 goal threshold again, but that will never take away from a season that saw him mentioned with the elite in the NHL.

OK, now it's your turn. Were you surprised at the fact that most of the 30 goal scorers last year were high draft picks? Or was that to be expected? Are you surprised so few undrafted players ended up with 30 goals in a season? I know I was. Thanks for reading and sound off below!!

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