Airdronian named to Alberta’s WHL Cup roster

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Airdronian Jake Neighbours’ busy 2017 got even busier Oct. 4 as the young forward was named to Alberta’s roster for the 2017 WHL Cup.

2017 has been quite the year for the 15-year-old. He was drafted into the Western Hockey League joining the Edmonton Oil Kings, competed in – and won – the Alberta Cup this spring and captured a Canadian Sport School Hockey League Championship. The young player now adds representing Alberta to his long list of achievements.

“To finally have made it to this step is amazing,” Neighbours said. “I’m excited and relived that I made it.”

After back-to-back-to-back wins from team Alberta, Neighbours will join 19 other young Albertans aiming to continue the province’s success at the WHL Cup. Alberta has historically dominated the tournament, capturing five titles in its six-year history.

Although the pressure to take the title once more is intense, Neighbours said he isn’t too fazed.

“We’re going to be the team to beat, so we have to be ready for that and play to the top of our game all the time,” he said.

“We have high expectations for our team, just like everybody else.”

In addition to playing in the five-day tournament, Neighbours has gotten off to quite an impressive start to his Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League (AMHL) career with the Calgary Buffaloes.

Having 15 year olds crack a midget AAA hockey club is not that common, with only a few spots available each season. The competition for a spot on the roster is that much more intense on a team deep with returnees like the Buffaloes has been this season.

Neighbours has already entrenched himself in his new team, leading in goals with five and in points with nine all in just six games. The team also named him an assistant captain.

“(Getting a letter) means a lot. It shows that this coaching staff believes in me and will help bring a connection from our older guys to our younger guys with a young leader,” Neighbours said.

He added, expectations are high for him and the Buffaloes as the team is looking to win its first AMHL Championship since the 2008-09 season.

The forward also left an impression on the Oil Kings earlier this year when he took part in his first pre-season camp with the team that selected him fourth overall in the WHL Bantam Draft in May.

Although he wasn’t eligible to make the team full-time as a 15-year-old, Neighbours said he felt he accomplished what he set out to do at camp and eagerly anticipates the day he becomes a member of the team permanently.

“I wanted to be a positive guy and get to know the guys well,” Neighbours said. “So if I crack the roster next year they’ll be familiar with me and I’m not just a new face.

“It sucked (going to camp) knowing I couldn’t play this year, but it is going to drive me for how bad I want to be there next year as a 16-year-old.”

Alberta kicked off its title defence Oct. 18 (after press) with a matchup against Team Saskatchewan at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary. The tournament concludes Oct. 22 with the gold medal match at 1:30 p.m.

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