Though the Edmonton Oilers weren’t sure what to expect of Kailer Yamamoto, given his youth, development and size, they have a player that appears ready to make the opening night roster.
With the 18-year-old winger making a strong impression at camp and forcing the Oilers to consider him for an NHL job this season, many are curious as to where that leads a multitude of other Oilers prospects looking to make the roster, including Jesse Puljujarvi.
The Finnish winger has seen some preseason action but has been inconsistent scoring-wise, despite a few strong games and a two-goal performance against Winnipeg. On Thursday, he saw time on the fifth line with Chris Kelly and Iiro Pakarinen, and then on Friday, he played alongside Drake Caggiula and Ryan Strome.
While he did get a lot of time to develop last season and looks much stronger and more confident moving into this year, he has not stood out as much as other prospects. And because of this, the team may be more likely to give a spot to Kailer Yamamoto, which could mean that Puljujarvi would start the year with the Condors.
When it comes to the top-six, Yamamoto seems to be a better fit. He shows a lot of chemistry with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jussi Jokinen, and that may be more helpful for that line. Not only that, he is tied with Auston Matthews for the most goals in preseason play with five. Considering this, he is able to not only produce but can also stand out and prove his worth.
Puljujarvi has not shined as brightly, nor has he shown a lot of chemistry or rhythm with anyone specific. In addition, his totals aren’t impressive, and he has failed to make himself a critical asset so far. And while there are spots on the fourth-line still up for grabs, it may be best for him to spend more time developing at the AHL level.
Overall, the Oilers have a lot of choices to make regarding their roster. However, for Puljujarvi, if he sees himself starting the year with the Condors again, he will likely continue to develop and trend in the right direction, which seems to be a better path than joining an NHL team as a top prospect but only playing bottom-six minutes.