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Photo Credit: David Banks - USA TODAY Sports

Introducing Kailer Yamamoto

During draft weekend, we were introduced to Kailer Yamamoto and his tremendous skill set. A week later, he is attending the orientation camp and we’re talking about his size, NHL-readiness and his future. Before we tackle those subjects, let’s (for the record) hear what the top services said about him in front of the 2017 draft.

DRAFT ASSESSMENT

  • The Black Book “An electric player with dynamic offensive ability, easily some of highest skill of any forward I watched this year, he’s just so small and at times took some big contact when I was viewing him. Love his aggressive nature and how he attacks puck carries from all angles, it puts players on edge.”
  • Corey Pronman: He’s a plus skater, puck handler and passer. Yamamoto has great agility on his edges, combined with a good top gear. He can create when he is carrying the puck due to his skill, creativity and ability to see the ice. He can come down the wing with speed one shift and quarterback a power play the next. 
  • ISS scout Milan Dragicevic: “Huge engine in small body. Very smart, high hockey IQ, excellent puck skills and speed. Can change the game in a positive way very quickly. Overall, really like his game and his composure, hard to teach that offensive skill set”. 
  • Red Line Report: Perhaps the best playmaker in the draft, the under-sized Yamamoto is an ultra-skilled winger who develops chances out of nothing and always knows where his linemates are – great vision. A true spark plug who can change the course of a game by creating a big play or scoring the big goal using his high hockey IQ and creativity.

These are important words and we will refer back to all of them over the coming years. A great scouting report, and these are four, gives you the entire picture of a player. So, we go into the experience of tracking progress fully aware of the complete picture. Now, the numbers.

YAMAMOTO COMPARED TO OILERS PROSPECTS 

Important to factor age into the scenario, Yamamoto is 18 years and nine months, while Joe Gambardella is 23 years and seven months, meaning Yamamoto is the most talented offensive forward in the system based on the numbers. The only real competition is Jesse Puljujarvi and based on results one year ago I’d give the edge to Yamamoto.

THE SEASON TO COME

Yamamoto should be a strong contender for the WHL scoring championship in 2017-18. He finished No. 7 overall a year ago and all or most of the names ahead of him will be in pro leagues next year. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Yamamoto gets in training camp and pre-season. He’ll flourish with skill and that is going to raise excitement levels. Edmonton’s plans on RW this season are more about Jesse Puljujarvi so we may not see Yamamoto in a feature role this fall.

THE REST

Kailer Yamamoto is 5.09, 160. You’d love to see him get to 5.11, 190 but that seems unrealistic from here. Everything else about him screams elite, including speed, skill and off the grid numbers at the NHL combine. The one thing that keeps coming up about him is size, as in “are you seriously thinking this guy is going to be able to play at this size?” and we’re just going to have to see about Kailer. Not every prospect turns out as hoped and injuries derail smaller players 10 at a time. All of that understood, Kailer Yamomoto is a substantial NHL prospect.

  • SRELIOFAN

    As my wife always reassures me… Size isn’t everything.

    If some big players can play so small *cough* Pouliot *cough* then why can’t a small player play big. I believe in this kid. It will be fun to watch him develop.

  • Robbiezyg

    If he was 5’9, 160, I’d be ok with it, he could survive. He was measured 5’7.5″ 143lb at the combine. Definitely a boom/bust pick, I’m cheering for him but dam, he’s got a big hill to climb

  • I am Batman

    He can carry the flag at the beginning of games! The proverbial “2 birds with one stone “.

    In a serious note, is not the size of the dog in the fight…. it’s about the size of the fight in the dog….

    except when it comes down to Jenny G. Jenny G is a little piece of poop. Period.

  • RJ

    I’ve seen re-drafts that had Gaudreau go first.

    You’d have to hope the kid has it in him to follow that path. But I’m not going to be convinced until I see him play against Doughty or Weber.

  • Shadytick

    Martin St Louis is listed on hockeydb as being 5.08″. Heavier at 176 pounds, but the players seem similar to me. St Louis could do so well because he was in insane shape, just as Yamamoto showed at the combine. If he can have half the career that st Louis, we’ll all be happy.

    • Chunkylover69@google.ca

      I agree and it sounds like Yamamoto is a killer in the gym. I don’t put a ton in the combine usually but he killed it for a lad his size and he will only get stronger. If he can develop thighs like St Louis then I might swoon like I do over klefboms abs!

  • Florescent Oil Orange

    It seems this pick is a gamble. Highest skill in the draft or at least top 3. But the size is the gamble. Looking at Detroit Chicago and other peraniall top teams. Did they gamble with there 20plus 1st round draft selections. Or do you take the sure thing.

    Chia pet has made some significant moves to make us to a playoff team. In Boston he won a cup and wrecked the teams salary cap trying to win another. From my perspective on the outside looking in it sure appears he is overcompensating for that failure by wrecking the team to save the cap space. Did he get full value for Eberle. There were multiple teams interested. Larson worked out well and made us a better team but clearly these deals on merit could have also gotten us extra picks. Rinehart was a swing and a miss buy the Talbot deal was a hit so I can discard those deals as balanced. I hope I can trust chia pet

    • fasteddy

      Have you looked at Chi and Det drafting over say last 10-12 years? Throw in L.A and Pit while you’re looking….this whole idea that these teams “do it right”, is a farce. The only reason teams have high pedigree players in the minors is they aren’t ready; as in they aren’t good enough yet. High picks are often ready sooner because they are better players to start with, not because they were “rushed”. Show me the superstars these teams have “brought along the right way”…..they don’t exist. I’m not an apologist for Oiler drafting; they’ve done horribly in their own right on many picks and in many drafts….but the idea that there’s this tried and true model where the smart teams slowly perculate their young players and then unleash them to stardom is horse manure.

      • Florescent Oil Orange

        All.i am saying is taking a big chance on a guy like this reeks of the smartest guy in the room syndrome that infected the Oilers in the Deckard of darkness. I am an oiler can I hope it works out but at the size it certainly is a concern

        • Connor'sGotHart,Ross,Lindsay!

          It’s a concern if everyone is small. With the mix we have there is less of a worry.The problem was that the small guys we had , had no balls and wouldn’t compete.

      • crabman

        @fasteddy,
        I’ll give you the “superstar” don’t typically come out of nowhere after being brought along slowly. Those people are drafted at the very top of the draft. What about very good players, even allstars, that have been given a bit more time to develope?
        I took a quick look, 5 minutes, and came up with this.
        Chicago- Sadd
        Pittsburgh- Murray, Guentzel (looks like the real deal)
        LA- Quick, Toffoli
        Det- Tatar, Nyquist
        That was off the top of my head and confirmed with a quick google search.
        Sure the draft pedigree was missing with each of these examples but they were all good players on draft day. Each needed time to become a player who could help their teams win and were given thst time. Drafting is half the battle. After draft day it is about development. In Yamomoto’s cause he may have the work ethic and the skill to play right away but it is probably in his best interest to let him mature more physically before seeing him in an Oilers uniform. I don’t think slow playing him would be an indication that he couldn’t become a star in the league.

        • fasteddy

          Don’t get me wrong; I agree completely that development is huge. I was just trying to say that those teams, any teams, are not picking players late year after year that turn into top NHLers. Their late first round picks are typically not ready to play is why they don’t end up on the team right away, and there’s not a team out there that is turning 4th round draft picks into 2nd line players year after year…..of course teams hit on one once in a while, but year to year there’s no team that good at drafting and developing.

  • JoeC

    Theo Fleury was 5′ 6″ and was a hell of a player. He played when the league was a lot tougher and succeeded. If Yamamoto can play with the same heart and tenacity (or close to it) he will succeed.

    • Florescent Oil Orange

      Well flurry did it…let’s stop drafting anyone over 5’8. If one guy can do it that means everyone will. All I am getting at is don’t cherry pick to support your case.

  • McRib

    He looks like one of the kids modelling the team jersey on the draft floor, not one of the players actually getting drafted. Haha. That said he is a Top. 5 offensive talent and if he was even 5’10 he would have been long gone by pick 22 this year. It’s 2017 anyway, skill trumps size now everyday in the NHL.

    • Connor Mike-David

      I thought it was a face-palmer that they didnt think to hand him a jersey that was close to his size. Sure, they never know exactly who they’ll be picking at that point in the draft but if they thought there was a chance they’d pick him and went to the effort of having the right namebar on hand, then why not a smaller jersey? Haha! Definitely not the most important thing to be on the minds of management but sheesh! You’re about to call up the smallest player EVER drafted in the first round and you’ve got an XL jersey in your hand?! Classic.

  • Joy S. Lee

    I would have him watching film of the NHL’s successful little guys. Apparently, he views Mats Zuccarello’s style as something he aspires to, and if you’ve watched Zuccarello, you’ll know why. Zuccarello doesn’t play with fear; he instigates it in defenders with his creativity and drive. I know the big men will take their shots, and the problem is that nobody in the world makes better on their chances to neutralize an opponent than NHL defensemen or checking forwards. But this kid has a sense and feel for the game in him. That’s what will keep him alive, along with the bag of tricks the Oilers’ coaches give him to master. It’s hard for me to not believe in a kid with as much hockey sense as this little guy possesses. And he’s fully aware of what he’s getting into… he’s excited by the challenge, and judging from his message to Chiarelli, confident about how it’s going to turn out. Very high potential to be the steal of the draft. I love that. How can any of us not root for the kid? I’ll be paying extremely close attention to this young man’s development, because he could be something special, or nothing at all. I’m putting my money on the kid playing sidekick to one of two dominant NHL centermen, and the sooner, the better. I can hardly wait to watch him dazzle at the BC pre-tourney this year.

  • Joy S. Lee

    The reason hockey sense is so highly sought after these days is because when players have it, they adapt better to the considerable uptick in skill at the NHL level. Yes, they are now opponents of the meanest, nastiest, craftiest, fastest and most skilled players on the planet, but the reason those with hockey sense adapt better is because they are suddenly teammates with players who ALSO possess a high degree of hockey sense. And that’s why guys like Johnny Gaudreau – and Kailer Yamamoto – can survive. Their high degree of skill makes their teammates better, and in return their highly skilled teammates give them the opportunity to be better. Nic Ehlers in Winnipeg is another good comparable for Yamamoto, I believe. Could be wrong, but seem to recall that he adapted quickly; attended Jets’ training camp, returned to junior for banner season, then impressed everyone as an NHL talent the following season. There’s no reason to believe that a small, skilled player can’t survive, and especially on a roster that has considerable size and toughness to go along with a couple of elite level superstars.