Barring any changes this summer, Jake Bischoff will enter his senior season at the powerhouse University of Minnesota with an increasingly growing leadership role and a chance to earn a pro contract.
That he hasn't been coaxed to the pros yet is somewhat of a rarity among the Gopher program, which annually loses top players to the pros before their sophomore or junior seasons, but also no surprise for a 7th-round (#185, 2012) pick. The departure of teammates to the pros allowed Bishoff to take on a bigger role in 2015-16, and he thrived.
Overall, his progress in the NCAA has trended as you would hope -- more ice time, more production, and an alternate/assistant captain's "A" on his chest. This past season he was a Big Ten all-academic winner and one of the team's two "unsung hero" award recipients.
But at age 21 -- he turns 22 in August -- the left-shooting, mid-sized defenseman is taking the longer, collegiate path to the pros in comparison to his junior peers, some of whom are already signed and pegged for AHL Bridgeport. Still, his senior year should be a great opportunity to solidify his status on a team that's routinely among the NCAA's best.
The Islanders prospect pipeline has a large though not necessarily deep pool of young defensemen. By this time next year Bischoff could have differentiated himself enough to earn a late-season contract or ATO, or he could be looking -- or "loophole"ing -- for offers elsewhere if the Isles let his rights expire.
What We Think or Barely Know
Here's how our panel ranked him (no number means outside of the top 25), plus what a few had to say:
I asked my friend Types With A Fist*, the most diehard Gopher fan I know:
Workhorse of a defenseman. Big and getting bigger. Played smart from the beginning of the season, but more importantly has been improving his passes and smart play/decisionmaking.
He just needed to be on a better team, or a harder working team. He's one of the few gems on the Gopher roster.
*yes, I edited his input
David King (CanadianIslesLifer):
From what little I've seen of him, Jake Bischoff is an interesting prospect. He might be a late bloomer, but he's still obviously a long shot. I didn't rank Bischoff simply because I felt there were others who are more promising.
I noticed Bischoff had made a target of himself in one of the Islanders' prospect games. Not sure what he did to get under the skin of his fellow prospects.
I'm still at the point of my list where I think, "Well if there was ever an NHL strike, this kid would make a great scab."
Well, hopefully it doesn't come to that.