Edmonton Oilers Director of Player Personnel Bob Green envisions captain Connor McDavid and top prospect Kailer Yamamoto as future linemates.
The Oilers 2017 first-rounder has been impressive so far through the Young Stars tournament. He is also coming off a solid offseason with strong showing at Oilers Development Camp in July and the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase.
Green was on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer Monday before heading to Penticton, British Columbia for the annual rookie tournament. According to Green, he believes expects Yamamoto to compete come training camp.
“We think he’s going to fight for a job,” Green said. “I would never bet against a kid with as much ability as Kailer has, but it’s not going to be easy. He’s going to come to training camp and compete hard and have the right attitude that he’s coming here to make the hockey club.”
Yamamoto thinks the game at a high level, has great speed and plays well with and without the puck. He excels at finding open ice in the offensive zone and has a quick release from the slot area. Because of his skill set, Green sees Yamamoto as a potential fit to play with McDavid in the future.
“Looking down the road, who knows how things are going to unfold, but we have a pretty good centre (in McDavid) who can get guys the puck,” Green said. “So, I think Kailer is a very good complementary player in that regard. He can get himself in a position where he can either make a play with the puck or shoot it.”
Where Yamamoto Starts the Year
Though a dark horse for a roster spot this season, Yamamoto will likely return to juniors and play his fourth season with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. The Oilers have a lot of depth and scoring and no longer need to rush their top prospects to the NHL to fill holes. For now, the 18-year-old will likely compete for the WHL scoring title and look to be a top contributor.
When he does arrive in the NHL, he will almost surely be used in a top-6 role. However, with Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Strome, Jesse Puljujarvi, Zack Kassian and Anton Slepyshev all potential candidates to play on the right wing, Yamamoto will have a lot of competition to outplay if he wants to crack the NHL roster right out of the gate.
However, he is just as likely to make the Oilers opening night lineup a year from now. When the time comes, he will likely get time with McDavid, and could even see some ice time with the captain come this preseason.