Though the Edmonton Oilers selected 22nd overall in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, they got one of the best names available.
Edmonton selected right winger Kailer Yamamoto, a small but lethal, high-scoring winger with a lot of skill and upside for the future. With the team lacking depth on the right side entering the year, he could very well rise as a dark horse candidate for a roster spot.
Since being drafted, Yamamoto has made headlines and has shown his worth as a potential NHLer off the get-go. He shined at the World Junior Summer Showcase this offseason, and also signed an entry-level deal with Edmonton in July. And as he heads into training camp, many are eager to see what he makes of his ice time in the preseason.
On the other hand, some are skeptical of bringing the 18-year-old on board this early on. The Oilers have an unfortunate history of underdeveloped top prospects, as seen with players like Nail Yakupov. Besides that, there are also concerns about his size and ability to match up – as well as keep up – with the NHL’s rough-and-tumble environment. However, it seems as if critics may be underestimating Yamamoto.
Yamamoto’s NHL Chances
First off, though the 5-foot-8, 146-pound forward will certainly need to put some bulk on to adapt to the higher professional levels, size has always been a non-factor. In fact, he shows more speed, and is able to get into the right spots and the tighter areas on the ice. This not only helps him when it comes to finding offence, but it helps him keep track of the puck and usually get to it when no one else can.
Also, Yamamoto had 42 goals and 99 points in 65 games with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs this past season, and showed his worth as one of the league’s top forwards, despite his size. He has only been in juniors for three seasons and has always scored at least 50 points per year. Given his quick transition to the WHL, he should be able to adapt well as he moves up the ranks, and has had a reasonable share of experience to make a run for a roster spot.
Not only is he able to get to the right areas and put up consistent results and efforts on the ice, but he is a fast, outstanding skater and has great hands and vision. In addition, he has an accurate shot and is able to keep up with the play and add chemistry to his lines.
Overall, no roster spots are guaranteed, and the Spokane, Washington native could go above and beyond to make the cut.