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Sports Edmonton Oilers fans itching to declare Yam City for Kailer Yamamoto

11:32  07 september  2017
11:32  07 september  2017 Source:   edmontonjournal.com

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2017 Edmonton Oilers prospects. No. 1: F Kailer Yamamoto . The drafting of Yamamoto went over well with Oilers fans , who salivated over his skill, but the Yam got others in the hockey world drooling over his skillset at the summer showcase tournament for world junior tournament hopefuls.

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Previously: drafted 23rd overall in 2017

How about this for a three year plan for the Edmonton Oilers. Jesse Puljujarvi makes the team this year, Kailer Yamamoto in 2018-19 and Tyler Benson in 2019-20, three new wingers for team on the top three lines? 

It’s a distinct possibility, with some Oilers observers going so far as to suggest Yamamoto has a shot at making the Oilers this year. After all, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting, Anton Slepyshev is a bit dinged up. Maybe that opens up a spot on right wing for a few games at least for Yamamoto, who will be 19 later this month. 

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At this point there’s little to say about Yamamoto that hasn’t been said since the Oilers drafted him 23rd overall. But here are the highlights of what has been reported to date.

His major junior coach, Don Nachbaur (a former Oiler), of the Spokane Chiefs, had this to say about his player in a mid-season NHL.com profile: “I coached (Tampa star) Tyler Johnson and he had the same mentality when he played the game. Didn’t matter about size. He always went to the puck and tried to get there first. Didn’t matter if the guy was 6-6 or 5-4. And Kailer has that. When you’re a small guy you have to be smart, and we saw his smarts. He never gets hit flush. He’s got a tremendous ability to change gears on pucks. When guys have him lined up, it’s an extra stride and he’s past them. He’s very elusive and Tyler had that in his game. He’s a very elusive player.”

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Edmonton Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto took a seat in Thursday’s 5-4 win over the Dallas Stars. And with Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula returning, he is becoming the odd man out yet again. As the Oilers prepare to take on the Washington Capitals Saturday

What do the Edmonton Oilers do with Kailer Yamamoto , whose play seems to have stalled the last few games? Ever the team guy, Kailer Yamamoto would rather have wins than points. But the clock is ticking on the teenager who played his eighth game with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday

On draft day, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said of Yamamoto: “I don’t think he would be with us when the season starts, but Kailer can do a lot of thing. He’s a pretty driven kid. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is we took him out to dinner at the combine and we asked why should we draft you? It’s a standard question. I’ve never heard this answer before. He said you have to draft me, otherwise I’ll come back and haunt you. He’s a pretty confident kid, that’s an impressive answer. And he backs it up with his play.”

The drafting of Yamamoto went over well with Oilers fans, who salivated over his skill, but the Yam got others in the hockey world drooling over his skillset at the summer showcase tournament for world junior tournament hopefuls.  Boston Bruins commentator Joe Haggerty of CSN, in particular, gave a rave review to Yamamoto, who was on Team USA’s best line with Casey Mittelstadt and Logan Brown.  “It’s 5-foot-8 Kailer Yamamoto that’s taken the summer hockey exhibition by storm,” said Haggerty. “He certainly didn’t look undersized or unable to easily handle the higher level of international play, and instead resembled Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Johnson or any number of feisty, productive and small NHL wingers making their way in the league these days… Yamamoto faces odds stacked against him when he’ll be one of the smallest players in the NHL once he gets there. But the league is trending toward the tremendous speed and skill that Yamamoto brings to the table, and that’s not changing anytime soon. The bottom line is that it’s somebody else’s draft pick that’s got the hockey world oohing and aahing this week at the summer showcase.”

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Unless he turned into Connor McDavid, he was always going back. To fans who witnessed the Edmonton Oilers dumpster fire Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings, it just doesn’t seem fair. It just doesn’t seem right.

My own first view of Yamamoto came in Team USA’s win over Sweden in that tournament, a game that saw Yamamoto fire in one bullet goal off a one-timer shot, and also get used to screen the goalie on the power play. His coach also  used Yamamoto to kill penalties. It was an impressive performance, full of speed, skill and grit. Yamamoto has the ability to make quick moves with the puck in the offensive zone to shake off defenders, but also uses all of his 5-feet, 8-inches, 150-odd pounds to wedge other bigger players off of pucks. He played a physical game and won a number of boards battles. 

Of course, the transition from major junior scoring ace to first or second line NHL attacker is littered with more failures than successes. Almost every major junior team has one or two top scoring attackers, but only a handful out of each of the three major junior leagues ever makes the leap to being a top NHL attacker as well. As I noted in a previous post, however, the Yam has already separated himself from the pack with 1.52 points per game in his draft year. When we compare him to other top attackers in their draft year, we see he’s well behind players like Patrick Kane, 2.38 points per game, and Connor McDavid, 2.52 points per game, but he’s in the same league as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 1.5 points per game, Nico Hischier, 1.48 points per game, Logan Couture, 1.46 points per game, Claude Giroux, 1.43 points per game, and Jakub Voracek, 1.55 points per game. There are an equal number of players who failed to make the grade at that same level, but Yamamoto’s level of scoring puts him in some strong company. 

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@ kailer _ yamamoto . Edmonton Oilers Draft Pick. Congrats @ kailer _ yamamoto ! What a great organization and a great city to go to. Keep making Spokane proud!

As for Yamamoto’s size, well, of the Top 50 scoring NHL forwards from 2017-17, all of the players were bigger than Yamamoto, but some of them not by much at all. Twelve smaller attackers had big scoring years: Brad Marchand, 5-feet, 9-inches, 181 pounds, 85 points; Nikita Kucherov, 5-feet, 11-inches, 178 pounds, 85 points; Mitch Marner, 6-feet, 170-pounds, 61 points; Johnny Gaudreau, 5-feet, 9-inches, 157-pounds,  61 points; Artemi Panarin, 5-feet, 11-inches, 170-pounds, 74 points; Patrick Kane, 5-feet, 11-inches, 177-pounds, 89 points; Nikolaj Ehlers, 6-feet, 172-pounds, 64 points; Mikael Granlund, 5-feet, 10-inches, 184 pounds, 69 points; Mats Zuccarello, 5-feet, 7-inches, 179 pounds, 59 points; Claude Giroux, 5-feet, 11-inches, 185 pounds, 58 points; Viktor Arvidsson, 5-feet, 9-inches, 180-pounds, 61 points; Cam Atkinson, 5-feet, 8-inches, 182-pounds, 62 points.

Expectations for 2017-18: Lead the Western Hockey League in scoring and excel at the World Junior tournament on Team USA

Goalies: #6 Laurent Brossoit —  #7 Nick Ellis — #13 Stuart Skinner — #14 Dylan Wells

Defencemen: #3 Ziyat Paigin — #4 Caleb Jones — #5 Ethan Bear — #9 Dillon Simpson — #10 Dmitri Samorukov — #15 Filip Berglund — #17 John Marino — #18 Markus Niemelainen — #19 Ryan Mantha — Depth defenders & goalie 

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Kailer Yamamoto , a surprise for the Edmonton Oilers this preseason, caught the eye of the Great One. 1:25. "I'm happy for him. It's a great story. He's fun to watch, and I think the fans of Edmonton are going to love watching this kid for a long time."

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Wingers: #8 Joey LaLeggia — #11 Ostap Safin — #16 Kirill Maksimov — Depth wingers

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