Mat Clark was one of the first rookies we monitored here at Anaheim Calling. He was chosen with the 37th overall pick in the 2009 entry Draft. I have a distinct memory of Arthur and I at the Ponda Center watching Clark fall back to cover for Scott Niedermayer on a 2-on-1 after scotty had been caught up ice. Clark Played it perfectly, staying in the passing lane and slowly drifting over to close the distance on the puck carrier, before finally laying out and completely taking away the passing lane. It was what we would come to expect of his play going forward: good vision and anticipation. Add that to his 6'3", 225 lbs. frame and you had the makings of a very good stay-at-home bottom pairing defender. There was only a small hope that he'd evolve into a top 4 guy, but that was before we realized how important mobility was to the new NHL; there were still a few pylons getting it done.
Still, Clark seemed to face a never ending supply of bottom pair hurdles, the Boyntons if you will. This year was the most NHL action he saw in an Anaheim sweater. It apparently wasn't a very impressive 7 games, because he was moved at the trade deadline for Michael Sgarbossa, a 22 year-old center.
So, let's see what Clark did to get himself shipped off. He played 45 games for Norfolk posting 1+5=6 and a -7. The -7 probably doesn't look great for a stay at home guy, but that was topped for any defender who played more than 40 games with Norfolk. Of course, there aren't any advanced stats for AHL games, so we have to make do with what information we have. Anaheim Calling's own VAPuckhead called him "The heart and soul of the (defense) corps". Suffice to say that in the AHL, Mat Clark was a productive defenseman, but arguably not a stand out.
It's the NHL numbers that most likely did him in: 7 games, 0+1=1, 46.0 CF%. The possession numbers were worst on the team, but he did lead the Ducks in GF% at 66.7, and posted a remarkable 1.61 GA/60. That's pretty good for a defenseman, and might have been a sign that Clark was finally coming into his own. To be fair, this all happened in 75:00 of work. That's a very small sample size, and perhaps can't be too definitive.
With the limited amount of data available to us from the AHL, it's hard to say how good Clark was at moving play in either directions. The NHL numbers say he wasn't very productive at driving play, but that he was fortunate enough to keep the puck out of the net, or be playing when our goalies were being exceptional at stopping the puck. He's 24 years old, and he seems to have had a solid year in the AHL. He wasn't necessarily a standout, so he got moved to an organization that lacked defensive depth. Here's to hoping it finally works out for him in Colorado, and he can crack an NHL lineup consistently.