2019-20 Team: Edmonton Oil Kings
Date of Birth: March 29, 2002
Place of Birth: Airdrie, Alberta
Ht: 5-foot-11 Wt: 201 lbs.
Position: Left Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 26th (among NA skaters)
- Craig Button, TSN: 43rd
- ISS: 26th
- McKeen’s Hockey: 30th
- Andrew Forbes (The Hockey Writers): 34th
- Josh Bell (The Hockey Writers): 32nd
- Larry Fisher (The Hockey Writers): 48th
Two years ago, Jake Neighbours was one of the hottest prospects in the WHL. He had improved drastically since the Edmonton Oil Kings had taken him fourth overall in the 2017 Bantam Draft and seemed likely to claim the Rookie of the Year the following season. His play style combined high offensive abilities and relentless physicality, making him a dangerous competitive forward all over the ice. Those skills made him a big target for the 2020 NHL Draft, as well, and scouts eagerly anticipated how he would handle the junior ranks.
However, Neighbours’ progress hasn’t gone quite exactly as expected. He didn’t thrive nearly as much in his rookie season, scoring a respectable 24 points in 47 games, but saw the Rookie of the Year go to Brayden Tracey, who had 81 points in 66 games and was subsequently selected by the Anaheim Ducks 29th overall in June. The 2019-20 season went better with Neighbours scoring 70 points in 64 games, but it was not the elite level some had hoped for, tying Ozzy Wiesblatt for fourth among draft-eligible players.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
While Neighbours may not be among the top prospects of 2020, he is far from a disappointment. His physicality is one of the most developed parts of his game. Despite his smaller 5-foot-11 frame, he has a bullish presence on the ice, throwing big hits and often choosing to go through opponents instead of around them. His strength makes him a puck-possession master, often taking two or three guys to knock him off the puck, and making him especially dangerous right in front of the net. He also is not afraid to get into the corners and battle for the puck, which he wins more often than not.
Neighbours is still a strong offensive force, regardless of where he was expected to be now. He has a strong shot and while he isn’t the most patient when it comes to waiting for high-danger shots, he is often able to beat goalies at difficult angles thanks to a quick, deceptive release. His playmaking abilities are equally strong, making passes look effortless and setting up open teammates for great opportunities. He also has good positioning and can play a 200-foot game, blocking shots and contributing to the backcheck well. He doesn’t have a high top-end speed, but a great first step, and his feet are always moving.
Neighbours’ blend of physicality and scoring prowess has some comparing him to Matthew Tkachuk. His offensive ceiling might not be as high, but his hockey IQ and vision are definitely assets that could help him achieve that level of success in the NHL. He is very smart when throwing hits and rarely takes bad penalties — he ended the 2019-20 season with just 39 minutes. Few players can get under opponents’ skin like him, and he always will be in their faces, making him a valuable asset on any team he plays for.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Jake Neighbours – NHL Draft Projection
Neighbours is right on the cusp of the first round and has the potential to sneak into the top-31, but will most likely be an early second-round pick. There’s a lot to like about him, and teams will know what they’re getting, but his upside just isn’t as high as some of the others in the draft class. Look for him to go early on day two, between the 32nd and 40th spots.
“…Neighbours is a rugged 200-foot forward who can tailor his game to fit any situation or requirement. He has very good speed and acceleration which helps him outpace backpressure, and Neighbours will take the puck strong to the cage while patiently outwitting the goaltender. He scores goals in a variety of ways, but the damage he causes is typically done near the net. Neighbours can play center or wing, and his attention to detail in all three zones should make him Edmonton’s go-to option in multiple scenarios.” – Steve Kournianos, The Sporting News
“Jake Neighbours may not reach the offensive ceiling that Matthew Tkachuk has but he certainly has the skill and play style to get there. He has a big frame and plays bigger than he is. He is strong on the cycle and has good hands in traffic. His shot is a major weapon but he doesn’t use it in dangerous areas as often as one would like because he is always willing to throw a shot on net. Like Matthew Tkachuk, he does an excellent job of using his physicality to make a play and chooses his spots well. He rarely throws hits just to throw hits.” – Tony Ferarri, Dobber Prospects
“A smaller dump truck like player who excels in areas off the puck but has been a reliable contributor on… Neighbours doesn’t play an overall flashy or explosive game but is effective in picking spots, being all around the puck, and simply executing. He projects as the ultimate utility third-liner who can play up and down the lineup. Good floor, but wondering if he has the feet to be grouped into talks with the top end of our WHL grouping.” – Justin Froese, Future Considerations
- Offensive abilities
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Top-end speed
- 200-foot game
Neighbours looks to become a versatile top-six forward with the ability to play on both special teams, as well as up and down the lineup as an energy winger. With the success of the Tkachuk brothers, every NHL team will be looking for the next agitator with a scoring touch, and Neighbours promises to be the best available in 2020. He’ll need to improve his defensive pressure but already owns an NHL-ready shot. Teams know what they’re getting with him, and his size could see him in the NHL sooner than expected.
Risk – 2/5, Reward – 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 7.5/10, Defense – 7/10
Neighbours has suited up for Canada twice, first with the U17 World Hockey Championship in 2018-19, where he served as captain of Canada White and chipped in three goals and six points. He then was selected to play at the U18 Hlinka Gretzky Tournament, where he wore an “A” and won a silver medal, but went scoreless in five games. Neighbours also appeared at the Kubota Top Prospects game this season, where Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer claimed, “I thought he was able to maintain the level of play that some of those high-end rated players. He was able to maintain his speed and I didn’t think he looked out of place with them.”
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.