Airdronian Jake Neighbours may be a rookie in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League (AMHL), but the league has already recognized him as one of its top talents by naming him one of November’s Players of the Month.
Neighbours solidified himself as a bonafide threat as a 15-year-old, leading his team in points in November – netting 16 points (5g, 11a) in eight games – rocketing him up to the lead of the AMHL scoring race.
“(Being honoured like this) is big. Playing in the AMHL as a 15-year-old isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I had a great month, my linemates and coaching staff helped me out tremendously,” Neighbours said. “It wasn’t just me that got me this award, but it means a lot and is something big in my career for sure.”
Although Neighbours said he started slow in the early stages of the season – making the jump from bantam hockey straight to midget AAA – the forward has been a force for the Calgary Buffaloes, netting 14 points in October, 16 in November and getting off to a hot start in December with four goals and two assists in two games.
For Neighbours, making the jump to midget AAA has been a huge step in his progression and he said it will help him grow as a player.
Neighbours said being recognized by the league shows just how far he has come but also puts a target his back.
“Playing against teams, they’re going to know who I am now, so I just have to continue to perform and doing the things I’m doing,” Neighbours said. “We have a highly offensive team so other teams have to be aware of all four of our lines.
“Now going into December, teams are going to be watching out for me as well as other kids on our team.”
With such a successful start to the season as a high-scoring team, the Buffaloes have been one of the top teams in the AMHL Chrysler Division – but that doesn’t mean it has an easy road ahead.
The Buffaloes currently sit second in the Chrysler Division with a 15-3-2 record, but having dropped and tied a pair of games with the division-leading Lethbridge Midget AAA Hurricanes, Neighbours said it will be an uphill battle all season.
From November to Dec. 3, the Buffaloes have played in just four games against Chrysler Division foes and lost three of those games.
Neighbours said his team needs to start defeating division opponents if it hopes to keep up with teams like the Hurricanes.
“Our team has struggled in games that mean something and are for spots in the standings,” Neighbours said. “It’s a really tight race, every game in the south matters.”
In the Buffaloes’ most recent game Dec. 3, it dropped a 7-3 decision to the Hurricanes. Although it was a disappointing loss, Neighbours said the game will serve as a wake-up call to the team.
“We were really confident, but (the loss) will be humbling in a way to know we’re not the only good team in the league,” Neighbours said. “There are going to be a lot of teams to compete with us, anyone can beat anyone in this league.
“It’s important for guys to learn how to play in games like that and learn how to lose because you’re not going to win them all.”