The St. Louis Blues went through the first round of the draft with no big moves. Their pick was made and it was a little puzzling.
Anyone expecting fireworks during the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft was sorely disappointed last night, especially with the St. Louis Blues. There were basically no trades involving players and the Blues stood pat, made their pick with the 26th overall selection and it was slightly puzzling.
The Blues took Jake Neighbors with the 26th overall pick. Neighbors comes from the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.
The pick is not necessarily a bad one. Neighbors has some talent.
However, it is puzzling because it feels like it came out of left field, so to speak. None of the mock drafts released over the last couple weeks had Neighbors on the Blues radar, so it was just sort of a shock to the system when Doug Armstrong came on the screen and announced his name.
On the plus side, Neighbors fits in with the Blues current style under Craig Berube. He’s a physical player that doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty.
He’s also got some offensive talent. In 2019-20, he scored 23 goals and 70 points in 64 games with Edmonton.
Neighbors is defensively sound, clocking in at a plus-15 during the season. That might not seem important, but a lot of junior players pump in the points and then are still minus-30.
As mentioned, that kind of responsibility fits right in with the Berube mold. He also likes to hit.
EliteProspects Draft Guide claimed Neighbors is “sturdier than a refrigerator. Opposition defenders step up on him, then crumble to the ice. He’s a brick wall.” He’s a little undersized at 5’11, 201 lbs, but Sammy Blais is technically undersized by today’s standards and he does just fine in that physical role who can also score.
The thing that makes this pick a little strange is there seemed to be more talented players, overall, still available. Neighbors is not slow, by any means, but he’s not overly fast either.
When scouts are saying you have a “decent motor”, that’s not a great indicator of someone’s speed level. Speed isn’t everything, but the Blues are a little short on it at the moment, so adding some for the future would not have been a bad idea.
Additionally, Neighbors fits the current Blues style, but he’s not going to sniff the NHL for a few years. Who knows who the coach or general manager might be by then, so you just wonder about taking a player that fits who you are now when that might change by the time he is ready.
Another detraction for the pick, not Neighbors himself, is his shooting hand. Neighbors shoots lefty, which the Blues have plenty of, and he plays left wing, which the Blues have plenty of.
Most thought St. Louis might look to pick up a right wing, center or even bolster their thin blue line prospect pool. Instead, they added another left wing.
Then again, this is the team that seems to draft a goaltender every year, no matter how many they have in the system.
None of this is to bad mouth Neighbors. He’s a good player and might have a decent NHL career.
He’s one of those types where you just don’t know what he’ll turn into. It’s more the surprise nature of the selection that throws one off.
Here’s hoping he suits up for the Blues sooner rather than later and we can look back and see another thing Armstrong saw that we did not.