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BLOG: Neal relishing fresh opportunity with Oilers

"I play my best hockey around guys that can move the puck. There's lots of good things happening here," said newly-acquired forward James Neal

by Tony Brar /

EDMONTON, AB - When asked about making the move up Highway 2, newly-acquired forward James Neal kept it simple:

"It's a fresh start."

The former 40-goal scorer is one of 38 players in NHL history to begin their careers with 10 consecutive 20-plus goal seasons. 

Tweet from @EdmontonJack: Consider the kind of elite company James Neal was in just a year of 38 players in NHL history to score 20+ in his first 10 seasons, and one of only 7 whose careers began within the last quarter century (Ovy, Kovy, Kane, Toews, Tavares, Vanek).

Elite company indeed. 

However, following his first and only season in Calgary, which saw him record seven goals and 19 points, Neal is looking to bounce back and prove his 2018-19 campaign was an outlier. 

"Obviously, Calgary was a tough go," said Neal in a phone interview with on Saturday. "It was hard last year and we'll have a great year this year. I'm just looking forward to next season.

"We'll just look forward from here on in."

Video: AUDIO | James Neal Interview 07.20.19

With players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, all of whom have the ability to play the centre position, it seems Neal's shoot-first mentality is a natural fit in the Oilers top six. The addition of Neal will also allow Head Coach Dave Tippett to be more versatile when deploying his lineup. 

"Wherever I'm slotted, I'm going to do my best," said Neal. "I play my best hockey around guys that can move the puck. For me, I'm a shooter and I do my best hockey when I'm getting open and finding fresh ice.

"There's lots of good things happening here."

And when asked about the prospect of playing with his good friend Connor McDavid?

"I'm just trying to skate as fast as he can. We're stride for stride," laughed Neal.

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