The St. Louis Blues have sent Jake Neighbours back to the AHL after his most recent call-up. The young forward played in two games, recording two shots, two blocks, and a hit while failing to record a point.
Neighbours, 20, like so many other prospects, needs to play. He wasn’t going to see much ice time with the big club, getting just 13 shifts in last night’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. At the AHL level, he can touch the puck a lot more and get his confidence up, something that must be waning after so many scoreless appearances as a pro. Neighbours has two goals and three points in 22 career NHL games and has yet to score an AHL goal in seven games.
There’s still plenty of optimism about the 2020 first-round pick, but it’s hard to see how playing fewer than ten minutes a night on an NHL fourth line is the right development path. He may be up again at some point but the focus should be on getting him rolling in the minor leagues.
The struggle of course is that the Blues aren’t winning, either, so head coach Craig Berube needs to do anything he can to turn the ship around. The club is 11-12 on the year and has lost their last two after a strong stretch. Balancing Neighbours’ long-term development with the short-term team needs is a difficult task, especially if they believe he is one of the 12 best forwards in the organization.