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Clarke finds new role in new digs

Garrett Clarke has been told to shed his tough-guy image with the Shawinigan Cataractes.

Garrett Clarke has been told to shed his tough-guy image with the Shawinigan Cataractes.

After a season and a half of being a QMJHL leader in penalty minutes and fighting majors with the Halifax Mooseheads, Clarke says the Cataractes — who acquired him from the Herd for a draft pick last week — want him to focus on finesse.

“Since coming here, the coach made it clear he doesn’t want me to play that type of role,” Clarke says. “They want me to be an offensive player and play with skill.

“In Halifax, they got me to be a tough guy and play that kind of role. Here, it’s a good fit.”

The six-foot, 192-pound Moncton native piled up 218 penalty minutes and 12 fighting majors in 63 games with the Mooseheads, but his lack of on-ice discipline drew the ire of his coaches and partially resulted in his mysterious departure.

With the Cataractes set to host the Mooseheads tomorrow at 8 p.m., Clarke says his former team won’t be able to knock him off his game if he’s in the lineup.

“I’m mentally stronger now that I’m here,” says Clarke, who won’t know until game day if he’s playing. “I know going in they’re going to try to get me to take penalties, but I don’t think they can.”

Clarke, the sixth overall pick in the 2008 QMJHL draft, showed flashes of his offensive talent in Halifax. He recorded seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points in 63 games, all before his 18th birthday.

In two games with the Cataractes, Clarke has been paired with Gabriel Lemieux, the older brother of Mooseheads right-winger Alex Lemieux. He has a goal, two assists and four hits and says he is double-shifted and used on the power play.

Because he is bilingual, the off-ice adjustment to northern Quebec hasn’t been as jarring for him as it is for many Maritimers.

“I’m all settled in,” Clarke says, who is living with a billet family that speaks only French. “Being here is a great experience.”

Clarke knows his reputation has taken a hit recently and admits he has “made mistakes, but they happened for a reason.” He is eager to move ahead with his career in Shawinigan.

“I just want to play my game and prove to everybody I can be a pro prospect for this year’s (NHL) draft,” Clarke says. “I have a lot of work to do, I have a lot of heads to turn, but I think it can be done.”

 
 
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