On Friday, we took the time lo check out two former Panther right wingers. Original Panther Tom Fitzgerald (353 games, 54 goals, 67 assists) and the man he was traded for, Mark Parrish (154 games, 50 goals, 31 assists). In today's dispatch, we will look at a center from Quebec and a current Panther, a goaltender from Iowa.
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44. Jesse Belanger
An undrafted 6'1" center from St-Georges-de-Beauce, Quebec, Belanger spent his formative hockey years with the QMJHL Granby Bisons, averaging 1.41 points per game over three seasons in juniors (203 games, 126 goals, 160 assists). He signed his first professional contract in 1990, as a free agent for the Montreal Canadiens. 1990-91 would see him score 40 goals, and 58 assists in 75 games for the AHL Fredericton Canadiens.
In 1991-92, Belanger spent most of his season in Fredericton (65 games, 30 goals, 41 assists). He was also called up for his first NHL action in January (four games, minus-1 rating). He spent substantial time with each club in 1992-93, playing in 39 games with Fredericton (19 goals, 32 assists), and 19 with Montreal (four goals, two assists, plus-1 rating, four PIM). Left unprotected in the 1993 Expansion Draft, the Panthers gladly picked him up.
In Florida's first season, Belanger appeared in 70 games for the club, and scored more than one point in 12 of them. He collected two goals and two assists in a 5-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on January 19. He scored 17 goals on 104 shots, adding a team leading 33 assists, a minus-4 rating, and only 16 penatly minutes.
In the strike shortened 1994-95 season, Belanger led the Panthers with 15 goals (on 89 shots), appearing in 47 contests. He added 14 assists for a team leading 29 points, finishing with a minus-5 rating and 18 penalty minutes. He scored two goals on March 16, in what may have been his best game of the season, again in a 5-1 win over the Capitals.
1995-96 would see Belanger appear in 63 games for the Panthers, scoring 17 times on 140 shots with 21 helpers, a minus-5 rating, and 10 penalty minutes. He had 10 multi-point games with Florida that year, including two goals and an assist in a 4-3 win over the Caps on December 5. During his Panther career, he seemed to always save his best stuff for Washington, totalling nine goals and six assists over 13 career games against the club. He didn't get to enjoy the Panthers assault on the 1996 Stanley Cup, as he was sent to the Vancouver Canucks for a third round draft choice (Oleg Kvasha) on March 20. Even so, for many new hockey fans, the face of Belanger was the face of the new franchise. He will forever be associated as one of the first Panthers with "star power."
Belanger didn't enjoy much more in the way of NHL success after leaving the Panthers. After his time with Vancouver (nine games, three goals, four PIM), he later appeared with the Edmonton Oilers (six games, minus-3 rating), a second tour with Montreal (16 games, three goals, six assists), and the New York Islanders (12 games, minus-5 rating). He spent several seasons bumping around the world in various lower level professional leagues. He has spent the last five seasons in the LNAH, most recently with the 2011-12 St. Georges Cool 103.5 FM (47 games, 31 goals, 42 assists).
All-Time Statline: Three seasons, 180 games, 49 goals, 68 assists, 117 points, minus-14 rating, 44 PIM, 9.7 APS.
43. Scott Clemmensen
A 6'3" goaltender from Des Moines, Iowa, Clemmensen was originally chosen in the eighth round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils with the 215th overall pick. After selection, he went on to attend Boston College for four seasons of collegiate hockey. He racked up a career record of 99-35-10, 13 shutouts, and a 2.52 GAA while with the squad, helping them to the NCAA Championship in his final season, 2000-01.
In 2001-02, Clemmensen made his professional debut with the AHL Albany River Rats, picking up a 5-19-4 record for the last place club. He had a decent save percentage, at .908. He also appeared in two NHL games for the Devils near the start of the season, stopping four of five shots in relief.
In 2002-03, Clemmensen was left in the AHL with the River Rats (12-24-8, .910, 2.65) for "seasoning." 2003-04 would see him again spend most of the year in Albany (5-12-4, .902, 3.07), also posting a 3-1 record with the Devils, including two shutouts.
When the NHL cancelled the 2004-05 season, Clemmensen had little choice but to continue to hone his craft with the River Rats (13-25-5, .916, 2.81). When the NHL resumed play for the 2005-06 campaign, he ended up on the NHL roster for the majority of the season backing up Martin Brodeur. He saw his most extensive action to date, posting a 3-4-2 record with an .881 save percentage and a 3.35 GAA.
After one more season in the New Jersey organization (1-1-2, .889, 3.14), Clemmensen was signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2007 offseason. Mostly, he played with the Toronto Marlies (23-14-2, .910, 2.44), making three appearance with the Leafs around the New Year (1-1-0, .839, 3.89). He would resign with the Devils prior to the 2008-09 season.
Clemmensen started the season with the AHL Lowell Devils (6-5-1), earning a callup to New Jersey early in the season to back up number two goaltender Kevin Weekes after number one Brodeur went down with a serious injury. After Weekes struggled, Clemmensen stepped in for several months as the Devil's number one guy (25-13-1, .917, 2.39).
Before the 2009-10 season, Clemmensen signed a three-year, $3,600,000 contract to play for the Panthers. In his first season of backing up Tomas Vokoun, he went 9-8-2, including a 36-save shutout in a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on April 1. He allowed 2.91 goals per 60 minutes, stopping 91.2 percent of the shots he faced.
In 2010-11, Clemmensen went 8-11-7 for the last place Panthers squad, again backing up incumbent pipeminder Vokoun. He posted a 24-save shutout over the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 17 in a 4-0 victory. Overall, he stopped 91.1 percent of opponents shots, allowing 2.61 goals per 60, a number comparable to starter Vokoun.
2011-12 would open with Clemmensen on the IR as new number one Jose Theodore and future number one Jacob Markstrom manned the net. The Panthers were 8-5-3 when Clemmensen took the ice for the first time on November 15, stopping all 25 shots in a 6-0 win over the Dallas Stars. When injury took down Theodore, Clemmers started 15 games between December 29 and February 15, posting a 7-5-3 record as the fill-in top dog. Overall, he went 14-6-6, 2.57, .913. There was almost no dropoff between starter Theo and Clemmers. In the playoffs, he went 1-2, stopping 81-of-88 shots, for a GAA of 2.35 and a save percentage of .920. The Panthers rewarded him after the season with a new two-year, $2,400,000 contract, the same terms as were on the last contract. As of this writing, Clemmensen is the only NHL player to originate from the state of Iowa.
Scott Clemmensen diving save 1/5/12 (via NHLVideo)
All-Time Statline: Three seasons, 84 games, 4,477 minutes, 31-25-15 record, three shutouts, 2,274 shots faced, 2,074 saves, 200 goals allowed, 2.68 GAA, .912 save percentage, 10.0 APS.