2016-17 Team: United States National Development Team (#13)
Date of Birth: May 6, 1999
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois
Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 196 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2017 first-year eligible
- THW (Pike’s Picks): not ranked (final)
- Future Considerations: 114th (final)
- ISS: not ranked (May)
- Bob McKenzie: 79th (Mid-season)
- Craig Button: 61st (final)
- The Hockey News: not ranked (final)
At times, it seems that the fanfare for defensemen tends to go to the blueliners that put up big offensive totals. But as the hockey world trends more and more towards valuing puck possession and a more analytical view of how to win hockey games, pure defensive defensemen are getting a bit more attention. Chicago native Tyler Inamoto has been a stalwart for the powerhouse U.S. National Development Team over the past two seasons. His offensive numbers are respectable, but it’s his play away from the puck where he’s made his reputation.
Inamoto is an interesting type of hybrid defender. He skates very well and has a degree of mobility that’s really impressive considering his nearly 200-pound frame. His skating ability makes his defensive positioning seemingly effortless and second-nature. While he moves really well, the other side of the hybrid style he displays is a commitment to engaging the opposition physically. In other words? Inamoto seems to love crashing into oncoming forwards. At times that’s gotten him into a bit of trouble, as he’s occasionally taken some silly penalties as a result of engaging so frequently. That said, Inamoto developed a well-earned reputation as a player that makes opponents battle for their offensive time. It’s easy to imagine his style of play translating well into the pro game, particularly when it comes to playoff time where territory is at a premium.
If there’s two things Inamoto needs to work on to succeed at the next level, they’re his offensive game and his discipline. His offensive game isn’t bad or weak, so much as it’s underdeveloped. It’s as if he’s focused so much on shutting down the opposition that he hasn’t really exerted himself to expand his offensive energies or properly develop his decision-making with the puck. In terms of discipline, it’s just a matter of Inamoto learning to pick his spots better when engaging physically and avoiding taking minors at inopportune time. The defender is headed to the University of Wisconsin, well-known for developing smart defenders, so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to round out his game over the next few seasons. Inamoto has all the tools to be a very good pro blueliner, he just needs to refine his game a bit.
NHL Draft Projection
On most rankings and projections, Inamoto is drafted in the third or fourth round.
“Inamoto is a big, rangy defenseman that covers a lot of ice due to his size and athleticism, making him tough to beat when he’s playing defense. His discipline has really improved too, as he’s cut out a lot of the dumb penalties he took when he was younger. The problem is that his puck-handling and passing is a liability, which means he spends too much time in his own zone defending. I’d put him as a mid-round pick, but can see some team falling in love with his size and toughness.” – Chris Dilks, SBN College Hockey.
— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) November 15, 2016
- Smart positional player
- Strong skater
- Good defensive anticipation and decision-making
- Uses his size well
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Needs to improve his puck handling
- Needs to improve his positioning in the offensive zone
- Needs to work on avoiding taking penalties
Second or third pairing, shutdown defender.
Risk – 1/5, Reward – 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 7.5/10, Defense 8.5/10
Inamoto represented the United States at the World Under-18 Championship and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He won a gold medal at the U18s.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.