Edmonton Oilers legend and Oilers Entertainment Group vice-chairman Wayne Gretzky said Saturday he is excited to have Kailer Yamamoto join the organization.
Gretzky was one of many celebrity golfers helping to raise money for the Community Cancer Fund at The Showcase Celeb-Am at the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho. During the tournament, Gretzky discussed Yamamoto with reporters.
“Our scouting staff and the General Manager Peter Chiarelli started watching him all year,” Gretzky told SWX Right Now-Sports reporter Lindsay Joy. “In January, Yamamoto was the guy that the Oilers eyed and ticketed that they wanted on our team. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, our game is obviously built around finesse and speed. And Yamamoto fits into the mold.
“He’s got tremendous hockey sense, he’s fast, and he’s very tough. He plays bigger than a guy who’s 5-foot-7, so I think he got drafted by the right team and we’re excited to have him. I think he’s going to fit in very nicely.”
The Oilers were fortunate to get Yamamoto who is considered one of the most skilled players in the 2017 class, at 22nd overall. In fact, Edmonton attempted to trade up in the draft to lock in their pick. In the end, it all worked out, and now, he will be looking to exceed expectations.
Yamamoto’s NHL Potential
In 190 career games with WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, Yamamoto registered 84 goals and 227 points. Last season, the Spokane, Washington native finished seventh in the league in goals (42), seventh in assists (57) and sixth in points (99) in 65 games. His 1.52 points per game average in 2016-17 was also the highest among CHL draft-eligible players. If the 5-foot-8, 164-pound winger had a better NHL frame, he could have been a much higher pick.
Like Yamamoto, Gretzky was a top prospect but doubted because of his size. At the time, the 6-foot Gretzky weighed in at 160 pounds. Critics said that because of this, he was “too small, too wiry and too slow to be a force in the NHL.” Of course, we all know that his size didn’t mean anything by the time he broke nearly every NHL record.
So far, Yamamoto has already proven his critics wrong. Overall, he still has the skill and drive to exceed expectations at the highest level. While no one is expecting him to be Gretzky, no one should be underestimating him, either.