Edmonton Oil Kings forward Jake Neighbours has really come into his own as an elite player in major junior hockey. Since his arrival in the WHL, he has developed into one of the league’s premier forwards.
The shortened 2019-2020 season proved to be a breakout campaign for him.
With the 2020 NHL Draft on the horizon, Neighbours has been widely considered a potential first-round pick, which in all honesty should come as no surprise.
According to Elite Prospects, he has been ranked #26 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
The talented winger possesses an impressive toolbox of skills that will surely help guide him to becoming a highly productive NHL player down the road.
Neighbours was drafted fourth overall in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft by the Oil Kings.
Prior to starting his WHL career, he played a season with the Calgary Buffaloes of the AEHL U18 (previously the AMHL) league in 2017-18. In 33 games he scored 57 points, which was enough to earn him the scoring title, most goals (26) and top forward award. His impressive season earned him a road trip north up the Queen Elizabeth Highway II. In an 11-game stint with the Oil Kings as a 15-year-old, Neighbours racked up four assists.
Entering his rookie WHL season with the Oil Kings in 2018-19, Neighbours posted a respectable 24 points in 47 games. He unveiled his abilities as a strong playoff performer when he scored 12 points in 16 postseason contests.
That same year, he captained Team Canada White at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where he recorded six points in five games.
Fast forward to the 2019-20 season. Neighbours really took the hockey world by storm when he mustered 70 points in 64 games while playing big minutes on the top line in Edmonton.
His play earned him a roster spot in the 2020 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
What Makes Jake Neighbours a Special Player?
Neighbours possesses a lot of skill and is a great skater. He has quick speed and terrific playmaking ability. His versatility stands out well on the power play and penalty kill.
His grittiness and strength make him a competitive force. As a whole, he is a complete package, playing a hard 200-foot game.
There is a great deal of passion and intensity to his game that can inspire any fan watching or any player on his team. Such qualities have shown well for him in high stakes games such as the playoffs.
He is a true competitor.
What’s Next for Neighbours?
As mentioned, Neighbours is a highly ranked prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft. He could be picked later in the first round or in the second round.
But as can be expected in this unusual world right now, the only thing to do is to wait and see how everything plays out. The draft will be held in October this year, not in its usual June timeslot.
The 2020-21 season will be huge for Neighbours nonetheless for his growth and development as a player. There is always a chance that any prospect, especially when drafted high, could turn a few heads and make the big club.
Never doubt the possibility.
However, Neighbours will still be looked at as an integral component of the Oil Kings core next season. He will be relied upon as one of the teams top contributors as they look to regain championship-contending form and perhaps challenge for a Memorial Cup.
It will be a surreal experience and an incredible accomplishment for this promising young player when he hears his name called on draft day.
The future looks very bright for Neighbours indeed.