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NHL Draft 2020, taking a closer look at: Jake Neighbours

The hard-nosed two-way winger is a second round comp.

2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

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Hendrix Lapierre, Lukas Reichel, Sam Colangelo, Jacob Perreault, Justin Barron, Jeremie Poirier, Anton Lundell, John-Jason Peterka, Dylan Holloway, Ozzy Wiesblatt, Ridly Greig, Zion Nybeck, Braden Schneider, Thomas Bordeleau


In my previous draft analysis, when discussing wingers, I’ve favored looking at more prototypical goal-scoring wingers, since I think that is an area of dearth concerning the Flyers. However, today’s player in question fits more in the mould of the young wingers that the Flyers already have. While the likes of Joel Farabee and Oskar Lindblom can score goals, they are more known as two-way wingers who do little things to put their line-mates in better positions to succeed.

Jake Neighbours’ game is in line with Farabee and Lindblom’s, with some noted exceptions. Neighbours’ is far more physical than Farabee and Lindblom (though less so than Nicolas Aube-Kubel) and has shown a more lethal shot at the current level he is playing at. Neighbours projects to be a solid middle six to bottom six winger who, like Lindblom and Farabee, could easily see power-play time, and even penalty-kill time, as Neighbours excels at it.

Let’s take a closer look:


What do the stats say?

Neighbours finished 2019-20 as the second leading scorer on his team, the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, behind only his line-mate Riley Sawchuk. Neighbours finished with a 70 point, 23 goal, season, obliterating his 2018-19 numbers (24 points in 47 games). This leap in production is even more impressive considering that 2018-19 was Neighbours’ first “full” WHL season, as he transferred to Edmonton from his majors team in the midst of the prior season, only playing 11 WHL games.

Neighbours also captained one of Canada’s teams in the 2018-19 U-17 World Championships. He finished that tournament with six points in five games, though in future outings for Canada, he didn’t fare as well. He also played in this past season’s Hlinka Gretzky cup, but did not register a point in five games.

From his raw production alone, we can deduce that Neighbours is a solid scorer that can provide high offensive upside in a primarily two-way role, which is always a net plus. However, with another year gone (if the 2020-21 CHL season is played in some capacity) I would expect Neighbours to take an even further step in his game. Ideally, I’d like to see him score more on the power-play and become overall more clinical in front of the net (he was one of the leading shot producers in the WHL in 2019-20).

The Eye Test

What stood out for me, when analyzing Neighbours, was his ability to draw defenders towards him and open up space for his line-mates. Simply put, Neighbours is a distractor. When he moves, he pulls guys towards him, and then has the skill to make the play to unlock the opposition after he’s disrupted their structure. This is the most evident on the cycle, and whether its from up high or from in close, Neighbours’ high level passing ability and his sharpness in moving the puck quickly and crisply is highly underrated when discussing his overall offensive game.

That being said, Neighbours isn’t the best in one-on-one situations, so this does hurt his offensive grade. This isn’t to say that Neighbours isn’t skilled or doesn’t have great hands, in fact, he flashes skill often.

Yet, you’re far more likely to see Neighbours chip and chase than try any sort of elimination on a retreating defender. This isn’t the worst problem to have, however, as Neighbours is not remotely shy from physicality, and he both dishes and takes hits in the corners.

Defensively, Neighbours is very effective at getting into position and using both his body and stick to disrupt attacking plays. He isn’t afraid to block shots, and his skill allows him to be a monster on the penalty-kill, especially when he’s presented with chances to score shorthanded. Even if he is only ever a bottom six forward, NHL fans will love him for this reason.

Neighbours has a good shot, no, a great shot, and I would hope he can score more goals with it as I said before in this report. However, I’m not ever sure he’ll be picking corners on NHL goaltenders. Where Neighbours will shine is in his overall tenacity combined with plus-plus skill as a complimentary piece on an NHL line. He’s the type of player coaches will love, and that fans will love as well, since he isn’t a fourth line nobody in terms of skill.

I could see the Flyers taking Neighbours as a second round option, though given their lack of picks in the third round (unless a trade happens), he likely won’t be available after that. Even though Neighbours fits the bill with other players in the Flyers system, both at the NHL and AHL level, I would be pleased with the pick. I don’t see a situation where Neighbours becomes anything less than a very good third line player, as his skill upside is just too high.