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Prep Watch: Eastern promise

Jamie Bishop will hear his name early in this summer's QMJHL draft.

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Jamie Bishop will hear his name early in this summer's QMJHL draft.

If there has been a recent savior for the Quebec League, it has been an influx of talent from two areas on opposite sides of the world – Russia and the Canadian Maritimes. On the Russian side, players such as Alexander Radulov, Ivan Vishnevskiy and Dmitri Kulikov have made deep impacts, while more local boys such as Sidney Crosby, Brad Richards and this year, Brandon Gormley, have held it down for the Maritimes.

Soon you’ll be able to add Jamie Bishop’s name to that list. The 15-year-old defenseman who plays for Saint John Vito’s (a pasta restaurant in the city that sponsors the team) in the New Brunswick/P.E.I. major midget league is a top-rated prospect for this summer’s Quebec League entry draft and he’s hot because of his all-round game.

“Jamie makes a good first pass, has a really good solid shot from the point and gets involved physically,” said Saint John coach Marc Hussey, who sees a little bit of Montreal’s Mike Komisarek in Bishop. “He plays in all situations and has steadily improved as the year went on.”

Playing in a league where some of his opponents are two years older than him, Bishop has still made an impact, tallying 20 points in 33 games, 10 of which came on the power play. Hussey also estimates that Bishop logs about 23 to 27 minutes of ice time per game, a hefty workload for a youngster, but one the kid has shown he can handle.

“He’s slowly, over the year, earned it,” Hussey said, well aware of the fact defensemen tend to develop later than forwards and must be handled properly. “They’re getting so many things thrown at them. We put (Jamie) in situations where he can succeed.”

And while his coach may see Komisarek, Bishop cites another rock-hard defenseman as his role model.

“Dion Phaneuf,” Bishop offered. “Nice shot, good hitter and he’s strong.”

At 6-foot, 168 pounds, Bishop already has a good frame to work with and will get bigger as time goes on. Until then, he sticks to the fundamentals of his position.

“I’m a stay-at-home defenseman,” Bishop said. “I rush when I can, make the first pass and take the guys at the blueline.”

Bishop, who wants to improve on his skating and his work in the corners as his young career progresses, hopes to be doing so in the QMJHL next season.

“I’m pretty excited for the draft,” he said. “Brandon Gormley – I really look up to him. He went first overall last year, he’s positive and confident with the puck.”

Indeed, Gormley is having a remarkable year as a rookie for the Moncton Wildcats and Bishop would be happy to replicate such success next season. Before that, though, the Saint John star has his mind focused on the playoffs (Vito’s is taking on the Fredericton Canadiens right now). Fortunately for coach Hussey, Bishop is more than willing to put in the extra effort off the ice as well.

“Excellent, coachable young kid,” Hussey said. “Always interested in learning. He asks questions and that’s something you don’t always see with younger players.”

Of course, there aren’t a lot of young players like Jamie Bishop.

Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.

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