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SYDNEY — Cape Breton Screaming Eagles head coach Ron Choules has no problem sending rookie forward Clark Bishop out on the ice against some of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s top players.
Choules had high praise for Bishop, who he says has the best defensive game he’s ever seen from a 16-year-old player.
“He fit right in right off the hop,” said Choules, who believes Bishop has earned the ice team he’s received, not because he was picked third overall in this summer’s midget draft.
“His skating ability when we drafted him is a key for him. It allows him to play against anybody in the league. We’ve put him in shutdown situations against top players, especially against Halifax. He’s had success. He reads the game well on the d-side. We’d like to get a little bit more offence, but that’ll come with time and maturation as well.
“We’re extremely happy with him. He’s a very responsible young man. He’s great off the ice and he’s a very studious student. I think it’s important he carries that and he’s probably the next leader of our team down the road.”
The 5-11, 173-pound native of St. John’s, N.L., was happy to be drafted by the Screaming Eagles, with home being a ferry ride and a drive away. He said it was one of the benefits to playing with the club.
“It was really exciting and I was a bit nervous when I was in my seat,” he said about the draft in June. “But when I went up there, I was a bit relieved and happy to be with the organization. It’s going great here so far. I love it here.”
“The biggest adjustment was moving away from home,” he added. “It’s my first time moving away, but it’s going great. I’m not homesick, my billets are great, the guys are great and they keep me company. I just fit in well and they let me hang around with them.”
Bishop is a product of the St. John’s Pennecon Privateers of the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League. He fired 18 goals and 20 assists for 38 points in 23 games during the 2011-12 campaign. His playing style has been compared with NHLer Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, and brings an all-around game to the Screaming Eagles.
“I think a bit of everything,” said Bishop of his skill set. “I’ve been playing penalty kill, power play. I’ve been on the ice playing third-line centre. I’ve been winning a few faceoffs and helping the team out in those positions.”
Working on his upper body strength will become a priority for the rookie. It will surely come in handy playing against players upwards of four years his senior.
“It is a really big difference,” he said. “The guys are so much bigger and stronger. I’m still working on getting stronger up top so I can compete with a lot of those bigger guys.”
As for his goals this season, Bishop is just looking to improve.
“I just want to do what the coach asks me, work on my faceoffs and just little things, little details that’ll help me. It’s a learning year for me.”
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