During last year’s abysmal campaign for the team, Jake Neighbours didn’t exactly move the needle for the St. Louis Blues’ faithful. In 43 games he put up 6 goals and 10 points, which isn’t necessarily bad for a 21 year old kid, but for a 1st round pick who made his NHL debut In October of 2021 it felt somewhat concerning for a team starving for more young, skilled talent.
After watching him for 20 games this season, capped off by an impressive 2 goal performance Sunday against the Blackhawks, I no longer have those concerns. It is a smaller sample size, but my verdict on Neighbours is this: he’s a faster, more skilled, younger Brayden Schenn. That is a very good thing for us.
You need a guy to get the team going by being a bowling ball on the ice? Put Jake Neighbours in.
You need a guy strong on his stick with solid defense for a penalty kill? Put Jake Neighbours in.
You need a guy willing to live in the dirty areas on the powerplay, which so many guys on the team seem averse to sometimes? Put Jake Neighbours in.
You need a guy who can not just tap the puck in on a ridiculous setup from Robert Thomas, but score goal scorers goals like this one? Put 63 in.
Not only does he showcase some speed there, but we need to remember that’s a 21 year old kid staying poised with a defender physically breathing down his neck performing a perfect forehand/backhand with a silky finish.
After scoring against Chicago, Neighbours had 5 goals his last 5 games. If he keeps this current pace, he could finish the season with almost 30 goals (again, at 21 years old).
This type of production alone is something I’ll gladly take from a 21 year old first round pick with only 52 games of NHL experience before this season started. However if you partner that production with him being a swiss army knife that Chief can throw on the penalty kill, power play, and he’s willing to drop the mitts from time to time, then Jake Neighbours could turn into a fantastic 1st round pick for the Blues.
Like I mentioned last week, this season has had some serious highs and serious lows for the Blues. But our 2020 first round pick looking like he’s going to pan out to be a solid top 6 (maybe even top line if he keeps filling the net like this), is a serious bright spot for Blues fans.
Plus it seems like he’s a fun guy to have in the locker room.