Neighbors eager to land a full-time role in the NHL with the Blues

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Missouri — Jake Neighbors will be presented with a great opportunity when St. Louis Blues begin training camp in September.

And there are plenty of incentives for the 20-year-old forward to be motivated to enter his second camp, according to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.

“Neighbors, your eyes must be as big as a saucer right now seeing these openings,” Armstrong said.

With David Perron leaving for the Detroit Red Wings on July 13 as an unrestricted free agent and Alexey Toropchenko expected to leave until early december after shoulder surgery, St. Louis has openings up front. Neighbors, selected by the Blues in the first round (#26) of the 2020 NHL Draft, will have a chance to fill one.

The neighbors started last season with the Blues and had two points (one goal, one assist) in nine games before returning to the junior ranks. He had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 30 regular season games and 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 19 playoff games for Edmonton, who won the Western Hockey League championship and earned a trip to Memorial. Cup

“I do not know if [having NHL experience is] an advantage, but I think just for me, personally, it’s a little more comfort and knowing what to expect,” Neighbors said. “Having that taste, the first nine games of the NHL hockey season won’t be the craziest nine games . Coming to mid-year, arriving later in the season, the playoffs, that’s what I have to be prepared for now and that’s what I want to push myself to do.

“It starts in the summer, starts now and gets to camp.”

Video: LAK@STL: Neighbors Score His First NHL Goal

Neighbors (6 feet, 201 pounds) admitted there was some disappointment following the Blues’ decision to return him to the WHL. But he was named Edmonton captain on November 12, 2021 and said he appreciated the responsibilities that came with that.

“Anytime you’re released from a team, it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “I think one thing I said when I left was that there were a lot of mixed emotions about coming back, obviously with the chance to win a championship (WHL) and see my teammates again. play in the NHL and, of course, play for the Blues.

“I’m glad everything went the way it did last year. If I could go back I don’t know if I’d change any of this, but I have to come ready to camp this year and ready to make the team.”

Neighbors didn’t participate in on-ice sessions during the Blues’ development camp last week for rest-related purposes, but director of player personnel Tim Taylor said he’s excited to see if he can land a full-time role in the NHL. on the training ground.

“It’s his character, right?” said Taylor. “You don’t see a lot of players getting to that age and really vying for a spot, but it’s important for him to see what the next level is, and he was able to see that. And again, as the season progresses, the level of play gets more and more. amplified more and more. He has to see it right up front.

“For him to come back and have the experience of being ‘the man’ of his team and taking them through the season and getting them to the Memorial Cup, I think it was a great experience and great for his development as well.”

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