Here’s a look at how the Edmonton Oilers 2017 NHL Draft has panned out so far
The 2017 draft was a whole new animal for this franchise. This draft was coming off the wake of the franchise FINALLY getting the playoff monkey off our backs for the first time in 11 years.
So natch, this is the 1st time in a long time the Oilers weren’t in the hunt for a lottery spot on the draft, and it would be the lowest they’d draft in – well – 11 years. This was the 1st season the retooled scouting staff would really have their metal tested. After all, anybody can pick between 2 or 3 options in the top 3 picks in the draft. The challenge for the scouting staff is when the team has success and they have to pick between 12 or more options in their designated spot, as well as account for any last minutes trades that go on.
This draft proved to be more fruitful than 2016 – which is ironic since we actually drafted 18 spots lower. Not as fruitful as 2015, mind you, but still a pretty good haul overall. If you’re just joining my series on the draft cycle of the last 5 years, you can read about the 2015 draft here and the 2016 draft here.
Let’s start off now.
Round 1, 22nd overall – Kailer Yamamoto
Right winger Yamamoto has taken to the game of hockey like a duck to water. He played his junior career for his hometown Spokane Chiefs in the WHL, putting up seasons of 57 points in 68 games as a rookie, then following that up with 71 points in 57 games then 99 points in 65 games. Also noteworthy is he showed a streak of physical play as well, racking up 50, 34, and 46 PIMS respectively those first 3 seasons. He also showed a knack for playing in his own zone as well, going +12, +20, and +14 in those first 3 seasons.
So it’s no wonder then, that he earned an invite to Oilers training camp in 2017-18, and earned at least a chance to grab a spot, playing 9 games with the Oilers and doing not too badly, going 0-3-3 with 2 PIMs and a -2. However, as you might expect, since the jump from junior straight to the NHL is a tough one that not very many picks can make. The team wisely decided he needed more seasoning and sent him back to junior. In the process, they also avoided blowing a year of his ELC.
When he got back to junior, he ended up with his 3rd out of 4 years of 20+ goals, going 21-43-64 in 40 games for the Chiefs with another 18 PIMs and a junior best +22. He threw in another 1-3-4 and 6 PIMs in 7 playoff games for the Chiefs that year.
Earning another trip to NHL camp, Yamamoto came back to the Oilers and lasted a bit longer in his 2nd callup, going 1-1-2 with 2 PIMs and a -6 in 17 games. Still, judging by his stats you can see that his defensive play suffered against the stiffer competition of the NHL. This is not surprising when you’re 19 and 20. The team once again wisely sent him down, this time to AHL Bakersfield. There he fared much better, going 10-8-18 in 27 games for Bakersfield, with 16 PIMs and a +12 to go with it.
Fast forward to this past season, and with a new GM who believes in letting players marinate in the minors as long as they need – arguably longer than they need, in some cases – Yamamoto started the season in Bakersfield this time. Here, he went 8-8-16 with the same 16 PIMs and his +/- dropping this time to a -7.
Nonetheless, the Oilers were having injury problems in the latter portion of the season and being one of their best prospects, Yamamoto was called up. This time, Yamamoto would surprisingly rise to the occasion and break open in the NHL, going 11-15-26 with 12 PIMs and a sparkling +17 in 27 games for the Oilers in a top 6 role. He also played 4 games in the playoffs, unfortunately producing no offence and 6 PIMs in those games, but you can only expect so much from rookies. You would think with numbers like that that he would be in line for the Calder trophy, but no dice.
Yamamoto has now earned himself a spot in the top 6 for good, ahead of schedule, and his timing couldn’t be better as his emergence has allowed Dr. Drai to center his own line. This gives the Oilers 2 legit scoring lines instead of loading up on the 1st line. In fact, the line of Nuge-Dr. Drai-Yamo was often called the best line in hockey. His scouting report is here.
Going forward: This player has a bright future for this club, and I don’t read too much into his lack of playoff production as that’s a whole different animal to master. But, he’s catching the team on the upswing, so I predict there will be no shortage of chances for him to get it right. He’s proven to be a quick study in his career so I don’t think it will take too long for him to build on the regular season he had this year and start scoring in the playoffs. Right now the sky’s the limit for this sniper who will fly under the radar with his higher-profile linemates.
Trending: Up – way up
Round 2, no pick – Fun Fact
This was the pick the Oilers had to give to Boston for hiring Peter Chiarelli as GM in 2015 after Boston fired him. That rule conveniently went by the wayside when Todd McLellan was hired as LA’s coach after we fired him 2 seasons ago. The NHL’s executive team bungles things like this so much…..*sigh*…..but, of course, I’m not bitter….*wink**wink*
Round 3, 78th overall – Stuart Skinner
Goalie Stuart Skinner is an interesting goalie. Goalies are typically the hardest to project, and even now it’s hard to say exactly what we have in Skinner. Skinner had a very up and down junior career, playing for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL up until a mid-season trade sent him to the Swift Current Broncos in his last season of junior.
His junior career-high was with the Hurricanes in 2015-16 when he finished with a .920 sv% for the ‘Canes, and 2nd best GAA when he finished with a 2.73. His numbers for the 2 seasons before and after that season saw his numbers take a nosedive. This was until the trade to Swift Current buoyed his numbers a bit, as his sv% went from .897 with the Hurricanes to .914 with the Broncos. His GAA also went down from 3.38 to 2.68. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why the guy was still available in the 3rd round: flashes of elite play, but overall a project.
He graduated to the pros in 2018-19 but his pro career has gone about as well as you’d expect, a mixed bag. He’s played about 50-50 between Bakersfield and Wichita in the ECHL, and has never put up elite numbers in either league. His pro career-best sv% is .903, in the ECHL, and his GAA best is 2.99 with Bakersfield. Neither of those numbers screams NHL caliber.
However, a bit of a lifeline was thrown to Skinner’s career when he was named AHL player of the week on January 26, 2020. This was after somehow finding it within himself to go 3-1-0 with a 1.50 GAA and a .946 sv%. Those would be impressive numbers as season totals, but considering Skinner finished the season with an .892 sv% and a 3.31 GAA it seems obvious that he went on a hot streak that week. He wasn’t able to sustain the momentum for the rest of the season.
Skinner is slated to be the starting goalie in Bakersfield as the Oilers don’t have anyone else with that level of pro experience that’s still under contract. Dylan Wells is doing even worse as a pro, Shane Starrett’s contract is up after this season officially ends, and Olivier Rodrigue is coming in as a raw rookie and we have no idea how he’ll do.
The job is Skinner’s by default……for now. I emphasize for now because the Oilers have 2 key goalies coming into the prospect pipeline that, if they perform as expected, will push Skinner to the ECHL for good if he doesn’t watch it. He’s signed for 1 more season by the Oilers and he better make the most of it, otherwise he’ll be out of the organization in short order.
I could see Skinner being invited to training camp next season but I can’t see him backing up Koskinen in the NHL, he hasn’t earned that yet. There’s talk he’s being considered for a backup spot with the Oilers, but I see this as the outlier for his season next year. Best case scenario. Scouting report is here.
Going forward: As I said, he better get his act together this upcoming season as I suspect the team will be happy to not renew his contract if he puts up the same numbers he’s put up the last 2 seasons in the pros. If he can play all season next year like he did that 1 week this year then there’s hope for this guy moving forward. Otherwise, his pro career is likely over.
Trending: Pro career is on life support