Like Hendrix Lapierre earlier today, Jake Neighbours will have to wait a little while longer to continue his NHL dream. The St. Louis Blues have assigned Neighbours to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, his junior club. Ineligible for the AHL, the young forward will spend the rest of the season with the Oil Kings but will not burn the first year of his entry-level contract. In his place, the team has recalled Dakota Joshua from the AHL.
Of Neighbours, Blues head coach Craig Berube had this to say:
I think there’s been games that I really liked him. He’s done some real good things. You have to look at a lot of the games and the score and the time of the game and just a lot of things played into hockey much ice time he got. It’s not easy. But overall, I think he did really well. He’s a smart player like I’ve always said, he’s killed penalties for us in these games, done a great job, he’s scored a goal, he’s around the puck all the time, has a nose for the puck. (This is all) going to be a learning process for him, a kid that young coming into the League.
Neighbours, 19, ended up playing in nine games for the Blues, the maximum he was allowed before his entry-level deal would have kicked in. He managed to score his first NHL goal and record two points in that time, while also wowing fans in the preseason with his obvious offensive upside. Playing just a handful of minutes likely isn’t the best way for him to spend this crucial development year though, so when he managed just 6:05 in ice time last night, it was obvious that a decision was coming to send him back to the WHL.
There is certainly lots to look forward to for Neighbours in the WHL. Though he obviously has missed a handful of games due to his NHL stint, he should step right back into a scoring role with the Oil Kings and once again dominate the league. Last year in a shortened season, Neighbours had 33 points in just 19 games for Edmonton. He also should be a top candidate for the Canadian World Junior team, in his last chance before turning 20 next March. His time with the Blues will come, but it won’t be this season.