Airdronian cracks Alberta Cup squad
Thursday, Apr 20, 2017 06:00 am
Jake Neighbours is the lone Airdrie player selected to represent the south squad in the upcoming 2017 Alberta Cup April 26 to 30.
Neighbours will be joined by 19 other 15-year-olds from across southern Alberta, (excluding Calgary) in the annual provincial tournament.
Looking to build off an impressive 2016-17 campaign, Neighbours is looking to make one last impact on the Western Hockey League (WHL) scouts in preparation of the fast-approaching WHL Bantam Draft May 4.
“If I have a good Alberta Cup it will help my draft status a lot,” Neighbours said. “There is going to be a lot of exposure there, so I need to be at the top of my game and really push myself…I think this could propel me quite a ways if I keep playing consistently.”
Following an impressive first season of bantam as a rookie in the 2015-16 season with the Airdrie Xtreme, Neighbours decided to take a major jump in his hockey career by joining the Pursuit of Excellence (POE) Hockey Acadamy’s bantam prep program in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).
In his first and only year of bantam hockey at POE, Neighbours finished third on the team and in the league scoring race with 68 points (27g, 41a) in 30 regular season games.
POE finished the regular season with a 25-1-4 record for second in the bantam prep division, but knocked off the first place team Delta Hockey Academy in the CSSHL final 9-1.
“It was a good overall season for me and I pushed myself this season with the draft and Alberta Cup coming up,” Neighbours said.
He finished the playoffs with 11 points (5g, 6a) in five games. Although the 15-year-old went on to enjoy a highly successful second and final season of Bantam hockey in Kelowna, he said his decision to leave the Xtreme was a tough decision to make, but one he would do again.
“I was looking for a good program for my draft year, to develop me a ton and get a lot more exposure,” Neighbours said. “Pursuit offered both those things and helped me a lot with my skating…It was definitely tough to leave the Xtreme and my teammates were sad but it was definitely what was best for me.”
Neighbours will be reunited with some teammates from the Xtreme on the south roster, including Tyrel Bauer, Nickolas de Beurs and Caleb Willms.
“It’s awesome to see those guys make the team,” Neighbours said. “It’s good to get to play with them again.”
For Neighbours, making the Alberta Cup roster is a huge step in his hockey career. The forward’s will focus on having a good individual tournament while also helping the south team improve from its 2016 third place finish in the tournament.
“We have a great group of guys. Everyone fits in well,” Neighbours said. “I think I can make a big impact and be a leader out there by playing my game.”
Neighbours hasn’t decided where he will be playing his first year of midget hockey in the 2017-18 season, but his ultimate goal is to have his name called in the WHL Bantam Draft and continue his hockey career at the junior ranks in two years time.