Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Jake Neighbours.
The fourth overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, Jake Neighbours scored 23 goals and 47 assists for 70 points in 64 games played with the Edmonton Oil Kings this year. Neighbours also played for Team Red at the CHL Top Prospects Game. This was a big improvement over his rookie season when Neighbours put up 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points in 47 games played. His maturation really started in the 2019 WHL playoffs when he put up four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 16 games. Neighbours also had a limited taste of WHL action in 2017-18, playing 11 games and scoring four assists.
Neighbours has also had the opportunity to play for Team Canada on the international stage. He was an alternate captain at last summer’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, helping the team to a silver medal. He also played for Team Canada Red at the 2018 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge. Neighbours scored three goals and three assists in five tournament games.
Neighbours developed in the AMHL where he scored the most goals and points in 2017-18 and was also named the league’s MVP. He also led Team Alberta to second place in the WHL Cup.
Jake Neighbours Scouting Report
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born March 29th, 2002 — Airdrie, Alberta
Height 5’11” — Weight 201 lbs [180 cm / 91 kg]
Neighbours is an explosive skater. He has an excellent first step and very good acceleration. This helps him to win races to loose pucks, or to quickly change speeds when attacking a defender on the rush. He is more quick than fast, as his top-end speed is good, but he is not quite a burner. Neighbours also has very good edgework and agility. He is able to quickly change directions to get away from defenders both with and without the puck. Neighbours has a wide stride which gives him excellent balance. It is tough to knock him off the puck. He is also effective at working the boards, winning battles for loose pucks.
Neighbours is a strong forward who plays a 200-foot game. He is effective on the forecheck, getting in quickly and creating havoc in the zone. Willing to play in the dirty areas of the ice, Neighbours gets to the front of the net where he is able to score goals in tight. He has the quick hands to bang in a pass from a teammate or to pounce on a rebound. Neighbours distracts the defence and the goaltender, as they need to keep on eye on what he might do next. He also has a very good wrist shot with a quick release. This helps him score from further out.
Neighbours is a puck possession monster. He uses his body to protect the puck down low and extend plays. He wins battles in the corners and gets the puck to teammates. With excellent stickhandling ability, Neighbours can extend plays and give his linemates the time to get open. Once they do, he has the vision to find them and the passing skills to set them up through tight spaces. Neighbours is always moving his feet and a constant presence around the puck. He is always in the middle of scrums and his relentlessness can pester opponents and draw penalties.
Neighbours brings this same work ethic to the defensive zone, backchecking effectively. He uses his body and his low centre of gravity when supporting the defence down low. This helps him to contain the cycle game. His quick stick is effective at stealing the puck away from opponents and intercepting passes. A hard-nosed player, Neighbours is not afraid to block shots. Neighbours is strong positionally, keeping himself between his man and the net and forcing shooters to take shots from tough angles. He reads the play well, anticipating where opponents will move the puck. Once he gets the puck, he can move it up the ice quickly, starting the transition game.
Projection and Comparison
Neighbours could develop into a solid middle-six winger, capable of being a big part of a team’s penalty kill and power play. His high-energy, defensively responsible game is something that almost all coaches will love. Neighbours could spend another two years in the WHL, refining his skating and continuing to get stronger. His game is reminiscent of Chris Kunitz but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Jake Neighbours that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Jake Neighbours Main Photo:
EVERETT, WA – OCTOBER 12: Edmonton Oil Kings forward Jake Neighbours (21) tracks the puck in the second period during a game between the Everett Silvertips and the Edmonton Oil Kings on October 12, 2018, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)