Sometimes some draft picks don't turn out the way you expect them to. There are plenty of positive versions of the story, such as a second rounder turning into an elite player (e.g. Patrice Bergeron) or a late pick turning into a useful player (e.g. Mark Fayne). However, there are those that just don't meet whatever expectations that they have. Players that you look back and raise an eyebrow at seeing they were a top-ten pick despite only being a depth player, if that. As many draft eligible players go through juniors, this does happen at that level. Clark Bishop of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles was the third overall draft pick of the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft. Now, he'd have to be lucky to be drafted in the third round of the NHL Draft.
Who is Clark Bishop?
As mentioned, Bishop plays in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Based on his profile at the QMJHL site, he's a center who stands at 6 feet and 184 pounds. The early pick from 2012 made the jump right into the 'Q' as a 16-year old, so he just finished his second full season with the team. You can see why he's not a highly touted prospect for this year's draft in his basic numbers. From Elite Prospects:
Yes, he really only improved by eleven points in a year to finish ninth in scoring on Cape Breton. Not exactly growing into the league from that standpoint. However, it's not as if he's devoid of talent. After all, Team Canada selected him for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial and World U-18 Tournaments. Players don't just join Team Canada unless they can do something rather well. It's clearly not scoring - and Bishop certainly didn't provide much more than an assist and an empty-net goal at that level - so it may have to do with how he defends, how he brings "energy," and so forth.
Thankfully, Bishop plays in the 'Q' so we can dive a little deeper into his unimpressive point totals. For starters, nine of his fourteen goals came on special teams: seven on the power play and two on the penalty kill. This means he's been used in all situations. Bishop took 120 shots, so he averaged just over two per game. 79 of those 120 shots were tagged as "dangerous shots." That's a 65.8% ratio, which is pretty good and the sixth most among regulars on Cape Breton last season. This all tells me that while Bishop certainly didn't excel or standout at it, he was at least involved at attacking. Lastly, under his detailed stats in his QMJHL player page, he only had one month where he put up a point per game. He did miss most of November with a finger injury, but it still looks like he only got hot in production for a month. That doesn't bode well for a prospect forward.
What Others Say About Clark Bishop
Elite Prospects doesn't just have his statline, but they have a very telling short summary on the player. If the point totals weren't enough to make you understand why he's projected out of the first three rounds:
Bishop is all heart and work ethic. Not blessed with the natural talents of others in his draft class, Bishop uses his physicality, grit, work rate, smarts and tremendous skating ability to make things happen on both sides of the puck. (November 2013)
Working hard and skating well are good traits in of itself, but they only go so far. The general idea of scouting and drafting is to identify players who can compete at the professional level years. If someone doesn't have natural talent now, then it's not likely they'll have it later on.
That blurb came in November. In January, Scott Pothier of The Scouting Report noted Bishop in this post. He has the follow description for the Cape Breton center:
While Bishop is not a pure offensive player, he projects as a safe pick as a reliable defensive player who boasts quality pro size. Bishop is a good skater who has shown more offensive polish in year two which should be enough to see him find a home anywhere between rounds two and four.
I am assuming that he must be a very good defensive player given that he made Canada's U-18 teams to do something because he certainly wasn't an offensive force among his peers the QMJHL. While 6'0" and 184 pounds isn't exactly small, I'm not sure I would call it "quality pro size," either.
Moving on, Mike Repertorio of Pro Puck Prospects put up a short profile on Bishop in May. It echoes what was written at Elite Prospects with respect to Bishop's skill:
Bishop is not one of the most skilled players in this draft, but that is not to say that he does not possess intangibles crucial to success. A recognized leader on his team, Bishop, with his great work ethic and heart on his sleeve attitude is currently an alternate captain for Cape Breton.
He’s not overly big, but plays a smart game with an element of physical play and grit. His stock has also increased thanks to his incredible skating ability and speed.
Grinding may be his future since he's not much of a shooter or passer. The numbers certainly don't suggest otherwise. A more positive take on Bishop's future comes from Shawn Reznik at The Hockey Writers. Reznik goes into depth as far as how Bishop plays.
Clark Bishop is not a flashy player, but he does play all 200 ft. of the ice every shift every game. He chips away at both sides of the puck relying on his smarts to play an effective game. Bishop’s best asset is his skating which he uses to get back into plays and pressure on the forecheck.
Not a very reactionary player, Bishop waits for plays to develop to utilize his wingers. He’s calm in every zone and rarely ever gets rattled. He has limited skill in his puck handling, but is sharp when it comes to passing the puck. Bishop also has a chippy side to his game. The defensive part of his game is what strikes me the most. He positions himself well in every zone and makes strong plays on the puck.
It seems to me, from Reznik's profile, that if Bishop is surrounded by plenty of offensive talent, then he may provide more use in that spot. And that may work in the right situation. However, that lack of initiative and limited handling of the puck plus the lack of production at this level will limit his selection.
Lastly, I'm going to defer to Bishop himself. Back in January, Neate Sager of Buzzing the Net had time to talk with the Cape Breton pivot. In the player's own words, here's how he describes himself:
"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."
I don't think he really can create that much offense based on what we know of his stats. But whoever is interested in Bishop has to consider that he's aware of what he is. He's more of a defensive player who brings energy.
By the by, Sager noted in the article that at the time, Bishop had 25 points in 38 games. Since he finished with 33 points in 56 games, we can conclude Bishop really didn't produce much down the final stretch of the QMJHL season: 8 points in 18 games. Perhaps it's a reason CSS dropped him from 48th among North American skaters to 104th in their final ranks.
A Little Video
John Moore calls games for Halifax but he has an interest in junior players in the Maritime Provinces. He interviews Bishop in this video from November. It features questions about his growth, some clips at the end, and a local ad in the beginning:
An Opinion of Sorts
I'm not a big fan of the idea of a prospect who's biggest asset is his "heart." It's a compliment at the level they are playing at, but it doesn't inspire much confidence in the prospect's future. Overall, it appears to me that while Bishop is an all-situations forward in juniors; if he excels anywhere, it's in being more of a role player. That's what he was with Canada. That's what the short profiles and other blurbs about his skillset - or lackthereof - indicate.
I'll grant he appears to be an energetic, defensive forward. Those sorts of players can certainly be useful. But if he's like that now among his own peers, then who's to say he will be like that when he's going up against developed men in far more difficult leagues? I will agree that one cannot judge a prospect on his point totals alone. However, a good level of production doesn't just mean that he's got an offensive game of note; but that he's doing well against his level of competition. He's making things happen going forward. He's beating his peers in some way. His first season in the 'Q' is certainly understandable as he was 16 for most of it and put on a really bad Cape Breton team. But as he grew, he may have received more responsibilities and he may have been able to get into good spots to shoot the puck, but the production wasn't there and the skills, well, there's a reason why others begin with his heart or work ethic.
I don't anticipate Bishop going in the first three rounds. After that, it'll be a measure of who really likes him. He could be a fourth rounder. He could be a fifth rounder. He could even fall to the sixth. Who knows. At that point in the draft, it's hard to get really excited or unhappy about who's picked. They tend to be longshots. But I would prefer the Devils look elsewhere at that point, such as a project who's got some signs of an offensive. I wouldn't prefer someone who may be a hardworker but may turn out to be not much more than that. That's the impression I get from Bishop. Being third overall once doesn't preclude a high selection elsewhere.
Now that you've read all this, what's your opinion of Clark Bishop as a prospect? What do you think of his second season with Cape Breton? Did you catch him playing in the 'Q' this season, or perhaps with Canada at the U-18 level? Do you think he'll fall into later rounds of the draft? If so, would you want the Devils to draft him if he's available? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Clark Bishop in the comments. Thank you for reading.