With the 22nd Pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers Have Selected Kailer Yamamoto From the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL.
About Kailer Yamamoto
Despite being undersized at 5 foot 9, Kailer Yamamoto has the potential to be a high-end player due to his excellent speed, pin-point passing and high hockey-IQ. If he can improve his defensive play, he can become a star in the NHL. One thing that’s working in Yamamoto’s favor is the fact that speed often makes up for undersized players’ statures. With his elite skating and acceleration, Yamamoto’s size shouldn’t impact his ability to succeed at the next level.
— NHL (@NHL) June 24, 2017
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt:
Kailer Yamamoto is a small, small young man. It’s a statement of fact that has to be emphasized outright, because any sliding down the rankings that happens on NHL Draft weekend could be primarily driven by concerns about a tiny man’s ability to survive in today’s National Hockey League. Despite all of the concerns about his diminutive stature, the American-born forward has impressed a lot of people during his time in the Western Hockey League.
Born and raised in Spokane, Yamamoto followed his big brother Keanu to Los Angeles for a couple years of high-end prep hockey before following him back to the WHL’s Chiefs. While Keanu was a very good WHLer with a respectable 0.65 points per game over four full seasons. His little brother has 1.19 points per game over three seasons, almost double his brother’s production. His 99 points this season were 6th in the league and his 42 goals placed him 8th. Some scouts have compared Yamamoto to Johnny Gaudreau and the comparisons aren’t terrible.
Yamamoto is a very good skater, able to weave in and out of traffic with the puck and avoid almost all contact with opposing players. Moreover, his mere presence on the ice with the puck is able to elevate the offensive chances of all of his teammates because his ability with the puck earns him a lot of attention from the other team (and leaves his teammates open). Spokane wasn’t a great team this season, but four players – the Yamamoto brothers, Hudson Elynuik and draft eligible forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan – carried their offense and kept them in a lot of games.
Yamamoto’s not a perfect player. He’s not huge and does not play a physical style of game. His defensive zone play is under-developed. His shot isn’t exactly a cannon. But he’s been an excellent offensive player in the WHL. That alone will garner him some strong NHL interest, particularly given the success smaller players have had in the pros over the last few seasons. His size will always be a concern, but his offensive abilities stand out in what’s been termed a slightly below-average 2017 NHL Draft class. He’s survived playing in the WHL against some very big-bodied defensemen. Can he do the same thing in the NHL? There will be several clubs willing to take that gamble.
How This Affects the Edmonton Oilers’ Plans
The Edmonton Oilers are finally looking like the team that they thought they could be after getting the first overall pick in three consecutive seasons. Selecting Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Oilers simply never panned out as legitimate playoff contenders. With Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid proving to be difference makers last season, the Oilers new young core already looks great. With Jesse Puljujarvi and now Yamamoto set to join the mix as first rounders, the Oilers already impressive young core could look even better within the next few seasons.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.