Born March 29th, 2002 in Airdrie, AB, CAN, Jake Neighbours has always been an elite hockey player, just like everybody else that goes in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.
Neighbours who grew up playing in the Airdrie Minor Hockey system, would get drafted 26th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues. In our multi part series breaking down the Edmonton Oil Kings roster, we take a deep dive into Jake Neighbours hockey career as he built his resume towards the draft.
As mentioned before, it all started in the Airdrie Minor Hockey Association system, Neighbours excelled early and often as he climbed up the ranks of the association. It was clear that Neighbours was something special as he scored 40 points in 35 games in his U15 AAA season with the Airdrie Extreme, funnily enough, his U15 AAA season is the season he had the most penalty minutes with 64. Known for his gritty game in the WHL and going into the Draft, Neighbours has cleaned up his discipline and has stayed out of the box ever since. Neighbours would finish tied for the lead in scoring in the Western Canada Selects U14 tournament, as he continuously proved he was one of the best players in Western Canada for his age group. Moving on closer to the WHL Bantam Draft, Neighbours would win the CSSBHL Championship with the Pursuit of Excellence U15 Prep, posting 68 points in 30 games played, including 11 points in 5 playoff games.
An amazing Bantam resume made Neighbours highly touted in the WHL Bantam Draft as the Oil Kings would take Jake 4th overall, only behind Kaiden Guhle, Connor McClennon and Justin Sourdif. Playing in predominately the AMHL with the Calgary Buffaloes U18 AAA team, Neighbours would lead the league in scoring with 57 points 33 games. Eventually getting the nod to captain Team Alberta in the WHL Cup, he wouldn’t disappoint achieving player of the game in the first game of the tournament.
The #OilKings have called up forward Jake Neighbours for the remainder of the 2017-18 #WHL season. pic.twitter.com/nVTYG6SdK8
He would also see a little bit of WHL action in his 15-year old season with 4 points in 11 games played, impressive for a 15-year old as not many of them find success at that age in the WHL. Taking that short cup of coffee as a 15-year old, Neighbours would get a roster spot out of camp for the Oil Kings as a 16-year old and have a decent first full season in the WHL. Neighbours would put up 24 points, 11 goals, 13 assists for the Oil Kings during the 2018-2019 campaign and help lead the Oil Kings to a Division Championship. Momentum would go in the favour of Jake going into the playoffs, scoring 12 goals in 16 games before the Oil Kings would get bounced by the eventual WHL Champion Prince Albert Raiders. Clearly earning the coaching staffs trust between his amazing playoff performance; simply being a year old in the WHL, Nieghbours would earn himself a spot on the first line of the Oil Kings heading into his draft year and the 2019-2020 season.
Jake Neighbours draft year season was a season of ups and downs, he would excel in the WHL with the Oil Kings scoring 70 points, 23 goals, 47 assists in 64 games before the season shut down due to COVID-19. The Oil Kings were poised to be a Memorial Cup contender before the season’s cancellation. Third in the entire WHL in points, the Oil Kings were far and beyond the best team in the Eastern Conference with a 9-point lead on the Medicine Hat Tigers. Neighbours would also attend the Hlinka Gretzky Cup representing Team Canada at the U18 level as an alternate captain, clearly a nod to the leadership that Neighbours provides to the locker room. Unfortunately on ice it wasn’t the tournament he was looking for, being held scoreless in 5 games. Canada would settle for silver in the tournament, falling in the gold medal game to the Russians 3-2.
Due to COVID-19 cancelling the WHL season, there was nothing else for Neighbours to do in the off-season but wait, and wait longer as the draft would get delayed all the way into October.
“He boasts playmaking ability, especially off the boards, has a decent motor with solid defensive fundamentals, and is sturdier than a refrigerator. Opposition defenders step up on him, then crumble to the ice. He’s a brick wall. And a brick wall who can set-up teammates with some pace and deception have value.” – Elite Prospects
It was worth the wait, however, as Jake Neighbours would get his name called on the first night of the NHL Entry Draft, drafted 26th overall by the St. Louis Blues. Recently agreeing to terms on a three-year entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues, he is technically on the Springfield Thunderbirds roster going into the 2020-2021 season. I would expect him to join the Oil Kings for the WHL season once it begins and post even bigger numbers on an Oil Kings team that is once again destined for a deep playoff run, health permitting.
Jake Neighbours, the Blues’ first-round 2020 #NHLDraft pick, has agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level deal. https://t.co/msEP98sbzm #stlblues
Featured Image Photo Credit – Twitter @TheWHL