Clark Bishop may very well be the most traveled player in the CHL over the past few seasons.
Since joining the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles as the team’s third overall pick in the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft, Bishop has traveled to the Czech Republic for the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament; Sochi, Russia for the 2013 U18 World Juniors; Philadelphia for the 2014 NHL Draft, where the Carolina Hurricanes selected him in the fifth round; back to his home province of Newfoundland; Ufa, Russia with the Screaming Eagles for the Junior Club World Cup; and Raleigh, NC for the Hurricanes main training camp. This is all in the span of a year-and-a-half.
For the time being, Bishop is relatively stationary; in fact, the hard-working Cape Breton captain is spending most of his time in the press box. He sprained his ankle in a late-December game against Halifax and has played just one game since.
“It’s tough,” said Bishop, during a Sunday morning interview in Saint John. “I came back in the game on (Jan. 23rd). I played three shifts, scored a goal, and only played about five minutes. I fell feet first into the boards and kind of re-injured it.”
The fact he added a goal to his tally in just a few minutes of ice time is no surprise and is representative of his breakout offensive season as a whole. Typically regarded for his high-energy, strong-forechecking style of game, Bishop has 17 goals and 12 assists in just 28 games this season. Last year, he scored just 14 goals in 56 games.
“I think being my third year in the league and also with the experience I’ve had in the past few years, as well as being drafted last year helped my confidence,” he said of his offensive output to date this season. “And I think I just had a bit of a hot stick there at the beginning of the year.”
He scored six goals in his first seven games of the season, while his longest goal drought this season has been just four games. It’s not as though all of his goals are coming in the blue paint, either.
“Some are breakaways, some are tips in front of the net and others are just shots. They’re coming from all over,” he said.
But if the Newfoundlander cracks the Hurricanes’ roster in the coming years, it likely won’t be for his offense. The forward development coaches in Carolina, who have been in contact with Bishop throughout the season, have to be happy with his production, but he’s a player best known for his work ethic, defensive responsibility and overall hockey sense. In fact, Bishop has been a valuable member of Cape Breton’s penalty kill unit since he entered the league as a 16-year-old – and it’s an aspect of his game that he takes immense pride in.
“It gives your team a spark as well if you’re doing good on the penalty kill; and sometimes you get that lucky breakaway or 2-on-1 that can really spark the team.”
Despite Bishop’s absence from the Screaming Eagles lineup in January, the team posted a record of 9-3 during the month, to go along with two more wins in February. The surge has brought the Screaming Eagles record up to 23-23-2-3 and back into the playoff picture in the QMJHL Maritimes Division.
It has been tough on the 18-year-old, but it hasn’t changed much around the team; in fact, his coach, Marc-Andre Dumont, requested Bishop remain with the team for each of its games during the month, doing his due diligence as captain in the dressing room before each game.
“Marc-Andre wants me to stay in the room with the guys, just to keep them motivated, you know, just act as if I was playing,” he explained.
Given his hectic travel schedule combined with the amount of hockey he has played over the last few years, a few weeks away from the ice probably isn’t the worst thing for his development, anyway.
“The last few years I’ve been traveling a lot,” Bishop laughed. “It’s been an incredible experience, gold at the Ivan Hlinka and bronze in the under-18.”
He also joined the under-18 team’s camp in 2012 as a 16-year-old, before joining Cape Breton.
“They brought me along for a couple of weeks, and that was just an incredible experience.”
But nothing topped the experience of hearing his name called in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia. Bishop, who wasn’t exactly a lock to be selected, attended the draft in hopes of realizing the dream that every Canadian hockey player has growing up – to hear his name called by an NHL executive.
“It’s a long time sitting in my seat, but at the end of the day it was worth it,” said Bishop, adding that he was unsure when – and if – he would be selected. “But I had a lot of interviews at the combine, and Carolina was one of those teams I talked to, so I’m glad they picked me up.”
Months later, because of his impressive showing at Carolina’s rookie camp, Bishop earned an invite to the team’s main camp, where the reality of his dream quickly set in.
“I grew up watching those guys on the ice, and then all of a sudden I’m sitting next to Jordan Staal on the bench. It’s pretty incredible that way.”
And when he has been healthy, there is no denying Bishop is one of the more complete players in the QMJHL this season, but his on-ice success this season might even be trumped by his younger brother, Joel.
Playing for the St. John’s Privateers AAA program, the 2015 QMHJL Entry Draft-eligible Joel Bishop had a standout first season of midget hockey, scoring 30 points in 26 games. He was named the Newfoundland Major Midget Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year for the 2015 season.
So does he have the edge on Clark?
“I don’t know,” Bishop answered, with a laugh. “I didn’t win Rookie of the Year when I was in Midget, so I guess he has a step on me there.”
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