Merkulov, Clarke, Stevenson named award winners for December

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Providence Bruins forward Georgii Merkulov, Ontario Reign defenseman Brandt Clarke and Hershey Bears goaltender Clay Stevenson have been selected as the league’s award winners for December.

Merkulov, the AHL Player of the Month, scored 10 goals and added eight assists for a league-high 18 points in 12 games for Providence during December, and capped the month off by making his National Hockey League debut.

Merkulov scored the game-winning goal in the Bruins’ 6-3 win over Bridgeport on Dec. 1, and notched a goal and an assist in a 2-0 victory at Lehigh Valley on Dec. 8. Merkulov then matched an AHL season high with five points, scoring two goals and assisting on three others as Providence defeated Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 5-1, on Dec. 9. He extended his goal-scoring streak to four games by finding the net again on Dec. 13 at Hershey and Dec. 15 vs. Toronto, and tallied two goals and an assist in the Bruins’ 6-3 win at Rochester on Dec. 22. After picking up a goal and an assist in a 5-4 decision at Bridgeport on Dec. 27, Merkulov was recalled by the Boston Bruins and made his NHL debut in their game vs. New Jersey on Dec. 30.

Merkulov leads the Providence roster in goals (14), assists (16, tied) and points (30) in 31 games this season, tying him for sixth place on the AHL’s overall scoring list. The 23-year-old native of Ryazan, Russia, earned a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team in 2022-23, when he registered 24 goals and 31 assists in 67 games for Providence. Merkulov signed with Boston on Apr. 9, 2022, after leading all NCAA freshmen in goals (20) at Ohio State University in 2021-22.

Clarke, the AHL Rookie of the Month, notched two goals and 12 assists for 14 points in 12 games for the Reign during December.

After a November that featured a nine-game scoring streak, Clarke registered three consecutive multiple-point games to begin December, tallying two assists each on Dec. 2 at Coachella Valley, Dec. 6 vs. Henderson and Dec. 8 vs. Bakersfield. He notched a goal and an assist on Dec. 28 at San Diego, and recorded a goal, two assists and a plus-4 rating on Dec. 30 at Henderson – his second such performance of the season.

Clarke is tied for third in the entire American Hockey League in scoring as a 20-year-old defenseman, collecting 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 30 games for Ontario this season. He also leads the Reign in assists, points and shots on goal (95). Selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, Clarke made his pro debut in 2022-23, recording two assists in nine games with the Los Angeles Kings and notching a goal and an assist in five contests with Ontario. The Nepean, Ont., native also won a gold medal with Canada at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship and made the Canadian Hockey League’s First All-Star Team.

Stevenson, the AHL Goaltender of the Month, made seven appearances for the Bears in December and went 6-1-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and two shutouts, stopping 196 of 208 shots overall.

Stevenson opened the month with 27 saves in a 4-2 win at Charlotte on Dec. 1, and came back the following night with 34 stops in the Bears’ 5-2 victory over the Checkers. He made 21 saves to shut out Cleveland on Dec. 9, and stopped 27 shots as Hershey edged Providence on Dec. 23. Following a 26-save effort at Rochester on Dec. 29, Stevenson closed out December by making an AHL career-high 37 saves in a 4-0 shutout of Lehigh Valley on Dec. 30.

A 24-year-old native of Drayton Valley, Alta., Stevenson is 12-4-0 in 16 outings for Hershey this season and leads the American Hockey League in goals-against average (1.70), save percentage (.937) and shutouts (five). The second-year pro spent most of the 2022-23 season with South Carolina (ECHL) before serving as the Bears’ third goaltender during their run to the Calder Cup champoinship. Stevenson originally signed with Washington as a free agent on Mar. 28, 2022, and inked a three-year extension with the Capitals on Dec. 12.