Though Edmonton Oilers prospect Kailer Yamamoto has been a healthy scratch these past few games, head coach Todd McLellan may keep him around a bit longer.
McLellan told Oilers.com that it is possible that Yamamoto could be in for a longer stay.
“There’s a chance that can happen,” McLellan told the media. “Thresholds are much more of the business side of the game. The cap, the management, the contracts, the future. We have to coach the team and we’re going to try to put the guys on the ice that give us the best chance of winning.”
He also added that if Yamamoto performs well beyond the 10-game mark and proves his worth, “then others are going to have to worry about thresholds or we’ll have to make decisions.”
After a strong performance in the preseason where he led all skaters with five goals, the 18-year-old won a spot on the team’s opening night roster. He eased into the lineup and grew more comfortable as time went on, and in wake of an injury to Leon Draisaitl, he stepped up to the plate and took on the role as the first line RW alongside Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon. With that additional ice time, he showed a lot of speed and skill and proved to be an impressive fit on the team’s forward lines, while also having chemistry on that top trio.
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In seven games so far this season, the 2017 22nd overall pick has three assists and 21 shots on goal and is a minus-2.
Of late, he has shown more speed and skating ability and is making himself more prominent and aggressive on the forecheck. Not only that, but he is getting more shots on goal and is establishing his presence in front of the net, while also making solid breakout passes.
Yamamoto’s NHL Tenure
However, with Draisaitl returning, the 2017 22nd overall pick again found himself on the outs. Many believed that this meant it was time for him to return to the Spokane Chiefs but following the team’s 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals Saturday, and their 3-6-1 start to the year, he returned to the top six at Monday’s practice.
Yamamoto has reclaimed his spot on the second line, skating alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic. He showed a lot of chemistry with Nugent-Hopkins in the preseason, and hopefully, he can recapture that moving forward.
Though many believe that the 5-foot-8, 154-pound winger could benefit from more development and time to grow win juniors, he has proven his NHL worth. He is showing effort and skill each shift he is out there, and he is also generating a lot of scoring opportunities; already, he goes above and beyond many of his other teammates who still have to capture their rhythm.
Not only that, with the Oilers lacking depth and scoring on the wing, the team can put more trust in Yamamoto, and from observing his work ethic and playing style, he will take the challenge and run with it.
Overall, despite his youth, he is already a mature player who brings a lot of skill and positivity to the lineup. In addition, he has shown that he can produce and create scoring chances and that alone should result in a longer tenure in Edmonton.