'Nucked

ARTHUR:
Vancouver's pre-season squad shut the Ducks out last night 3-0 at Honda Center. As Daniel and I were rather negative about the pre-season opening win, we're going to switch gears and be positive about this pre-season loss.

Daniel, who impressed you most tonight and why?

DANIEL:
Well, obviously Matt Clark, but I'll let you go on about him.

The other player that impressed me was Shawn Weller. He didn't do anything amazing, and that was the amazing thing. He played a very solid game, taking the body, and making sure to pressure on the forecheck. I think he had one scoring chance that he couldn't bury. I simply enjoyed the fact that he played the game he was supposed to play and didn't try to do too much just to make the team. We said last night while we were watching the game, it's more important to make the right decision and show that you can play smart than it is to flash your various skills around the ice. I think Weller did a good job of that last night.

ARTHUR:
The particular thing I emphasized to you last night, which our readers should remember when looking at Matt Clark, is his size and age. This is a 1990 kid who already matches up with pro players. His AHL stint is imminent, and it should be brief. For what he can do now, and how soon he'll be able to try his hand at the pros, Clark was a 2nd Round steal for the Ducks.

So, what can he do? Let's start with vision. His eyes are always moving, and his neck has swivel parts. It's like he has sideview and rearview mirrors out there, and he's the most careful driver on EARTH. Be sure, he knows where you'll be on the ice. And when you get too close, he is surgical with his stick work. He can disrupt you as you enter the zone, along the boards or the very moment you're trying to make a play. I was really surprised to see how well this translated against NHL players at near NHL-speed.

Then, and this just has to be said on principle, how many players can hold their own paired with Scott Niedermayer? More importantly, how many can get back and effectively cover for a Niedermayer mistake? Add Matt Clark to that exclusive company. Covering a 2-on-1 after a Niedermayer misplay, Clark dove-checked the puck off the attacker's stick and brought it with him as he slid toward the half boards. He didn't look out of place playing with a hall-of-famer; you can't say enough about that.

The thing I did NOT expect to see from Clark last night, which he showed me no less than FOUR times was big hits. He hunched two players over their own bench, the price of playing the puck in the neutral zone against him. He then pinned a player horizontally on the wall at the Ducks blueline, separating him from the puck before he could dump it. And last, though he didn't get all of him, he cut across the slot to blindside the puckhandler. He knocked the puck loose, but a slower reaction and he would've knocked the guy out.

You could argue that these were highlight reel hits, and he timed them to build a good film record with the coaches. But I'm going to argue that this kid has more fire in his belly than anyone gives him credit for. Because I know, and I think he knows, that that last hit wouldn't fly in the OHL. I think Matt Clark is going to unleash the physical part of his game when he finally comes to the pros. And I, for one, can't wait to see it.



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