OHL names Clarke month’s top rookie

BRAMPTON, Ont. – Blake Clarke of the Brampton Battalion is the Ontario Hockey Leagues rookie of the month for December, the league announced Friday.

“It’s a huge honour,” said left winger Clarke. “Obviously, to be recognized that way is huge for me and my confidence.”

Clarke scored six goals and added five assists for 11 points in 11 December games to lead all rookies. He ranks second in OHL scoring among rookies with 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in 40 games, trailing Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters, who has 40 points.

Clarke, who twice recorded two-goal games in December and produced a three-assist performance Dec. 2 in a 4-1 home-ice win over the Kingston Frontenacs, said hes pleased with where his game has gone.

“I’m really happy with the way I’ve played so far. I set expectations for myself at the start of the year, and I’ve definitely exceeded them.”

Clarke was on a seven-game points streak entering a game Friday night against the host Sudbury Wolves. The streak matches a seven-game points run Nov. 4-17.

“It’s important to be consistent,” said Clarke, who overtook Barclay Goodrow for the team lead in points with 34 when he scored in a 4-1 home-ice loss Thursday night to the Oshawa Generals.  “The best players are the ones you can rely on game in, game out, and that’s what I want to be.”

The Troops selected Clarke, a resident of Wildwood, Mo., 15th overall in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection. Hes wasted little time making an impact.

“The coaching staff and my teammates have been really helpful for me. Coach (Stan) Butler challenged me heading into December to score more while at even strength and not rely on the power play so much.”

Clarke has done just that, teaming with centre Nicholas Foglia and right winger Matt MacLeod to form an effective line.

“I think, as a line, we really complement each other well,” said Clarke. “MacLeod is a big-bodied guy who plays a physical style, and Foglia is a responsible two-way centre between us. It’s really been working lately for the three of us.”

Clarke said he doesn’t plan on slowing down with Goodrow out of the lineup with a shoulder injury.

“My goal through the rest of the year is to keep improving. We’re in a tight race in the Eastern Conference, and it’s important that we keep climbing the standings. I want to be a leader on this team and one of the go-to guys.”

McDavid won the top rookie award for October and November, making Clarke the only other winner this season.

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