Jake Neighbours makes triumphant return home with Oil Kings

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The newly appointed captain of the Oil Kings returned to the WHL after playing nine games with the St. Louis Blues in the NHL, scoring a goal and picking up an assist while there

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Derek Van Diest Edmonton Oil Kings Jake Neighbors celebrates his goal with teammates against the Prince Albert Raiders during WHL second period action in Edmonton on Friday, November 19, 2021.  Greg Southam-Postmedia Edmonton Oil Kings Jake Neighbors celebrates his goal with teammates against the Prince Albert Raiders during WHL second period action in Edmonton on Friday, November 19, 2021. Greg Southam-Postmedia Photo by Greg Southam /Greg Southam

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Jake Neighbors had two street games to find his junior hockey legs before making his home debut with the Edmonton Oil Kings at Rogers Place on Friday.

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The newly appointed captain of the Oil Kings returned to the WHL after playing nine games with the St. Louis Blues in the NHL, scoring a goal and being picked up as an assist during his time there.

The 19-year-old neighbors will most likely stay in St. Louis forever for the next season, but for now are looking to lead the Oil Kings to a Western Hockey League title and Memorial Cup hosted by the Saint John Sea Dogs this season after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neighbors marked his return to Rogers Place with a goal and a 6-3 win over the Prince Albert Raiders. He has four points in three games since returning.

“I’m happy about the win, of course a win is a win,” said the neighbors. “I thought I felt good, I think I have a lot more to offer. I think in general we are not happy with this game. We shouldn’t let in that many shots and I think they had a lot of good scoring opportunities too.

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“We shot six chances and used our capital tonight, but I don’t think we’re happy with this one.”

Carter Souch, Dylan Guenther, Kobe Verbicky and Jacob Boucher scored the others for the Oil Kings and Sebastian Cossa made 44 saves to improve his record to 10-3-2 that season.

Hayden Pakkala, Landon Kosior and Reece Vitelli scored for Prince Albert, while Carter Serhyenko conceded five goals in 22 shots and was replaced at the start of the third by Tikhon Chaika, who made nine saves.

“Cossa saved us,” said neighbors. “It’s good that we have him back, he can win us games and he did that tonight. It’s proof of how good he is and what he can do for a hockey club. It’s good that we have him back, we have a lot of trust in him to make big saves and key savings when we need him, but at the same time we have to do our part and play well in front of him and us. I have that tonight not done.”

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Neighbors have always been expected to come back this season to play with the Oil Kings, who started the year as the top ranked junior team in the country and preferred to fight for a WHL championship.

However, his stay in St. Louis was much longer than many had expected, and it came to a point where there was doubt that he would return at all. The neighbors made such an impression on Blues head coach Craig Berube that he was in the 23-person line-up on the opening night.

“Every time you get back a player of his caliber who played in the NHL and the experience he brings is enormous,” said Luke Pierce, Oil Kings assistant coach. “He means a lot to our organization as he was here as a 16 year old taking part in this playoff run (2019) and he was a real part of our team and that process. You can tell he’s here to lead this group by the way he plays, he’s looking forward to being back.

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“I’m sure, like any young player, he would love to be in the NHL, but he doesn’t show that, he shows that he wants to be here and he makes a huge impact on the team.”

Berube and Blues CEO Doug Armstrong thought it best for Neighbors’ development to return to a championship level club with the Oil Kings, play big minutes in all situations, and lead the team in their senior year in junior hockey. Had Neighbors played 10 games with the Blues, the first year of his NHL entry contract would have been activated, which is why St. Louis had sent him back after nine games.

“Jake has been a part of this organization for a long time and it has been a big push to bring him back to our team not just on the ice but off the ice,” said Souch. “He’s a good guy in the room and we’re all thrilled to have him back.”

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The neighbors in the first round – a total of 26. He is also in the running to become the captain of his country.

“I remember joking with the guys when I got back here and telling them I didn’t know if I could do another power play because I didn’t have power play retouches there in the NHL,” said Neighbors before the game. “It’s definitely different. I’m playing a different style of play down here that I had to play up there on the fourth row. It was definitely an adaptation. “

Neighbors had joined the Oil Kings while the team was on a four-day road trip, playing against the Regina Pats last Friday and the Moose Jaw Warriors the following evening.

“I think the first two games I knew would be tough,” said the neighbors. “There is always this transition when you return from a professional league to the juniors. I’m feeling pretty good though, I think it was good to put two games on the road and then have a week to settle in and be ready (Friday).

With the win against the Raiders, the Oil Kings increased their winning streak to four games.

The Oil Kings will host the Calgary Hitmen at Rogers Place on Sunday afternoon to expand their winning streak to five games.

Email: [email protected]

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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