Instead of returning for his junior season with the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team, winger Jason Clark is leaving the program and could turn pro.
"It's something he feels in his heart is the right thing to do,'' UW coach Mike Eaves said Tuesday.
Clark, from Eden Prairie, Minn., was a third-round pick of the New York Islanders in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He recently participated in their annual prospects camp and performed well enough to receive a contract offer.
“It wasn’t about my playing time or my treatment there,” said Clark, whose 35-game UW career was beset by multiple injuries and illness. “When it came down to it, I wanted to play more games.
“My goal is to play for the Islanders this season.”
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Clark had surgery to repair labrum tears in both hips and battled a sinus infection. In all, Clark played 35 games, including 21 last season, and totalled two assists.
Eaves said Clark broached the possibility of leaving last Friday. A long talk spilled over into another meeting Monday when Clark told Eaves he was leaving, but would finish his summer school commitments. Eaves acknowledged that he didn't project Clark among his top six forwards heading into next season.
"It was a tough road for him here,'' Eaves said of Clark, who became the fifth UW underclassmen to leave after the 2011-12 season. In addition to junior defenseman Justin Schultz signing a NHL contract with Edmonton, freshman defenseman Patrick Daly, freshman winger Tyler Lapic and junior goaltender Mitch Thompson left to pursue opportunities at the NCAA Division III level.
"Every situation is different,'' Eaves said of the departures.
Clark didn't immediately return a message left on his cell phone, but he acknowledged his departure multiple times via Twitter.
Eaves said he didn't expect to bring in another recruit to fill the roster spot.