St. Louis Blues Jake Neighbours Joins Long List Of Winners

St. Louis Blues left wing Jake Neighbours (63)Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues left wing Jake Neighbours (63)Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues seemed to know something we didn’t when they drafted Jake Neighbours. Originally, I thought it was a reach to acquire him in the draft where St. Louis did, but it looks like the youngster has a bright future ahead of him.

The Blues brought him to camp in 2021 and he earned a spot on the roster. We all knew it would only be for the allotted time frame before the Blues sent him to his junior team, but it was still impressive.

In nine games, Neighbours scored a goal and picked up an assist. Not gawdy numbers, but it showed he belonged by producing in limited action, i.e. just over nine minutes per game, and also had a game winning goal.

Neighbours was not afraid to shoot. He averaged around a shot per game.

Neighbours was also a physical presence for a young player. Again, he averaged a hit per game with 10 in nine games.

Even at the eye test, he already looks like a pro. Hockey-reference lists him at 5’11, but he looks taller and already has an NHL body, weighing in at just over 200lbs.

Just based on that, he seemed likely to quickly make the jump back to the NHL in 2022-23. At worst, I figure he would be in the AHL and be the first name called up.

However, Neighbours just increased his stock with his own 2021-22 season. He joined a long list of Blues to win championships prior to even suiting up in a professional uniform.

Neighbours ended up helping guide his team, the Edmonton Oil Kings, to a WHL championship. He had 17 goals and 45 points in the regular season and added three goals and 17 points in 19 playoff games. Now, he’ll set his sights on a Memorial Cup championship as all the CHL winners battle it out.

Neighbours may have been a world junior champion. He, and Team Canada, started off well as Neighbours had two points in two games prior to it’s delay due to covid. Whether he takes part in the August 2022 culmination or not remains to be seen.

Neighbours is just another guy the Blues drafted that is figuring out how to win before turning pro. The list is growing rapidly.

Robert Thomas and Evan Fitzpatrick claimed their junior league championships. Fitzpatrick went on to nab the Memorial Cup too.

Fitzpatrick may have fallen down the pecking order in the Blues depth chart, but we’ve already seen that winning style translate for Thomas. He won the Stanley Cup as a rookie and continues to grow as a player.

Alexei Toropchenko won the OHL championship not long ago. He’s already made the jump to the Blues and looked solid, albeit in a mostly fourth line role.

Scott Perunovich won two NCAA championships. He’s looking like a potential Cale Makar type of player, if he can improve his defensive side.

Nikita Alexandrov won silver at the World Juniors in 2021. He was bested by potential Blues future goaltender, Joel Hofer, who won gold. Hofer has a chance to win his first professional championship too as he has helped the Springfield Thunderbirds to the AHL Final.

The bottom line is that the Blues have drafted exactly what they need. They have picked up system players.

Everyone would love to have the next Connor McDavid. We all want the guy that will score 50 goals or put up 100-plus points.

However, those guys don’t always win. Edmonton has offensive talent out the gills, but they’re not ready to win.

The Blues are ready and their draft picks have already done it. Whether they’ve been the key player or just a cog, the Blues prospects are being shown what it takes to win early on.

That is invaluable. It teaches them that they don’t have to carry a team on their back and doing those little things are what helps you win in crunch time.

That’s why a player like Toropchenko can slip right in and play a fourth-line role on a playoff team. He knows he’s capable of points and will take the shots, but he’ll play his role too instead of pouting and thinking he used to be the top dog.

Thomas went from the head honcho on the OHL to a predominantly third-line role in 2018-19. He took it in stride, learned from his line mates and was a key player for the Blues prior to being knocked out of the Stanley Cup Final by Torey Krug.

Hofer won gold and is close to winning a Calder Cup. They’re all taking those next steps in winning, based on them learning what it takes to be a champion at the junior levels.

Next. Blues must find their own path, not copy the NHL. dark

Who knows when Neighbours will solidify himself with the Blues. I believe he’ll get every look in 2022-23, but maybe he needs a season in the minors.

Time will tell. The Blues just know they’ve got another proven winner waiting in the wings though.