With just one senior on last years Wisconsin hockey roster, Badger fans didn't expect much turnover. Five early departures later, and hockey fans in Madison are left scratching their heads, wondering what happened.
The latest to go was junior-to-be Jason Clark. Bucky's 5th Quarter reported on Monday night that Clark met with team members on Monday to inform them that he was leaving. Tuesday afternoon the University confirmed the departure.
According to Clark's agent Neil Sheehy, Clark is in the process of finalizing a contract with the New York Islanders. The contract will be a three-year, two-way entry level contract.
Clark recently spent time on Long Island at Islanders prospects camp where he played well enough to earn the attention of the front office.
We spoke with Clark on Tuesday, where he told us it's always been a dream to sign an NHL contract.
"I made this decision after considering everything. It was something I wanted to do," Clark said from his agent's office in the Twin Cities.
"It had nothing to do with the coaches at Wisconsin, or playing time. I felt like this was the best decision for me."
Clark leaves the Badgers after two injury riddled seasons in Madison. Due in large part to some serious nagging hip injuries, Clark was limited to 35 games during his Badger career, recording two points in the process.
Clark said that the injuries had little to do with his decision to sign with the Islanders.
"This has nothing to do with that (hip injury)," Clark said. "I feel like I'm 100% right now."
After a storied prep career at Shattuck St. Mary's, Clark was drafted by the New York Islanders in the third round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Clark's agent said that Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves told his client throughout the process that he needed to follow his heart.
"This is an example of Jason following his heart. He took plenty of time in making the right decision for himself in the process," Sheehy said. "This wasn't an example of people pushing him to sign. He considered all the options and followed his heart."
As I previously mentioned, Clark's contract is a two-way contract meaning that he'll make one salary if he's in the NHL, and another salary if he's in the minors. If Clark plays in the ECHL, he'll still make his AHL salary.
Clark's contract has not been finalized at this point, but is expected to be done soon.
Sheehy confirmed that Portland who owns Clark's WHL rights are not an option.
Clark noted that he realizes it's possible that he could spend next season in the ECHL, which is the equivalent to AA in baseball terms, but says he's shooting for more.
"I understand that the ECHL is a realistic option for me next season, but I'm aiming to play in the AHL," Clark noted.
"Obviously every players goal is to play in the NHL, and this is the next step."
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