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The Blues Swing and Miss in the 2020 Draft

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Uh... somehow, the Blues swung and missed here.

2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Blues selected Jake Neighbours with their 26th overall pick. That’s, uh... interesting. NBC’s player comparison was Milan Lucic. That’s a good warning sign, at least I’d think.

Neighbours isn’t bad. Let me get that out of the way. He has amazing skating; with great speed, agility, and edgework making him a fun player to watch. He’s also very strong on the puck, which helps him truck up the ice.

But once he gets up the ice... well... he doesn’t do much. Neighbours scored 70 points in 64 WHL games this year, not even good enough for most on his team. He is an aggressive forechecker — thanks to his skating — and loves having the puck on his stick but his pass and shot definitely need work. He has good stickhandling and loves corner battles, which does help his stock. But his offensive role is as a pest, not a scorer.

Neighbours’ amazing aggression and work ethic translates beautifully to the defensive zone, though. He’s a gritty, dirty forward who will throw the body, go into the corners, and block shots. Again, his role as a grinder is very solidified. And that’s exactly what he is. That’s why NBC compared him to Lucic. Neighbours is a grinder.

But

That’s... not worth a first-round pick. The Blues messed this one up. Jacob Perrault is anticipated to be the biggest surprise of this year’s draft. Brendan Brisson has the best power-play abilities and some of the most reliable 5v5 offense of anyone. Helge Grans is a statistical wonder who could easily become the best D from this draft. John-Jason Peterka has played against men in the DEL and performed great. Noel Gunler was a consensus top-15 pick who somehow fell — to every scout I know’s surprise.

All of these players were available. The Blues went somewhere else. And for no good reason. I had Neighbours ranked 42nd in my rankings. Ben Kerr — a close friend and the best scout I’ve ever worked with — had Neighbours at 48.

Point is, Neighbours would have been available in the second round. I’m entirely confident of that. And while the Blues don’t have a second-round pick this year, one could have very easily been acquired. The absence of a second-round pick does not warrant selecting a second-round talent.

This is a weird pick. The Blues left some of the best players in this year’s draft on the board and pursued an option out of left field. I hope they know something that I don’t because right now, this is looking like a flop. Neighbours is a grinding, defensively-focused forward who was taken over some amazing offensively-gifted names. Interesting to say the least.

We’ll see if the Blues can make up for their first-round pick with some steals in rounds 2 to 7 tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NHLFoley for updates and insight!