Clark Bishop benefited from a trial by fire as a rookie.
The St. John's native joined the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles during a transition period where the Quebec League club was going through a change in leadership and was divesting itself of older players. That led to Bishop needing to learn on the job quickly, but he feels that has helped him become a steady contributor this season, when the Eagles have taken some steps to respectability.
Last year was a tough, tough year," says Bishop, a centre who is NHL Central Scouting's 48th-ranked North American skater. "As a [16-year-old], we didn't have a lot of older guys on our team, I think we finished with only one 20-year-old [overage]. I got a lot of ice time which I believe really helped me to improve for this year
"I'm a full, complete 200-foot player, I'm good defensively but I can create some offence, be put on the power play or the penalty kill," the At 5-foot-11½, 183-pound Bishop says. "I really worked before this season to put on some upper-body strength. I feel more comfortable playing with the older guys and I'm not getting bumped off the puck like I did last year."
Bishop has 13 goals and 25 points over 38 games for the Eagles, who have already nearly doubled their win total from 14 to 26 as the QMJHL season nears the three-quarter pole. The utility role Bishop performs with Cape Breton, which also helped him contribute to Canada's gold-medal-winning effort at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament in August, could give him a chance to be a role player in the pro game.
By being chosen No. 3 in the 2012 QMJHL draft, Bishop tied the record as the league's highest-drafted Newfoundlander. Neither Colin Escott (2005) nor Brandon Hynes ('08) went on to be drafted by a NHL club, although the undersized Hynes is now playing in the ECHL after posting two 40-goal seasons a junior.
Bishop, who counts on the support of his parents Millie and Steven, will surely break that cycle this summer.
"My dad's been there ever since I first put skates on," Bishop says. "He's been the biggest influence over me. My mom's always cheering and screaming, being that great hockey mom."
1. Which NHL player do you study closely, perhaps because you think there's some similarity between your skills and his?
"Jonathan Toews, growing up I watched him a lot. I think I play similar to him."
2. Who has been the most challenging defenceman you have faced so far in junior?
"Jimmy Oligny with Rimouski [Océanic]. He's a tough customer to play against."
3. Which teammate(s) do you credit for helping you adapt to playing for the Eagles?
"I have a good group of friends on the team. Like Bronson Beaton, Michael Lyle, Kyle Farrell, Charlie Légaré. Guys that are around my age group."
4. Where is your favourite road rink in the QMJHL?
"Halifax is our rival and it's just a great place with all those fans. The atmosphere in that arena [the Halifax Metro Centre] is great."
5. Athletes are supposed to be strict about nutrition, but no one's perfect, so what's your guilty-pleasure food?
"Growing up, I always loved donairs. Donairs were my favourite meal. I haven't had it in a while but it's still my favourite."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.