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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Yamamoto has his eyes set on a roster spot

The Oilers development camp is underway and that means the prospects are back in town with a spring in their steps and NHL dreams in their hearts. For the fresh faces like Evan Bouchard, this camp is a new experience that they’ve never gone through before, one that they’re trying to enjoy and make the most of, but for Kailer Yamamoto, he comes into his second tour with a clear goal in mind — making the Edmonton Oilers. 

After yesterday’s on ice session, Kailer Yamamoto spoke to the media a little bit about where he’s at, his plans for the summer, and what he expects from himself for the upcoming season. When asked about his goal for the year, Yamamoto wasted no time getting right to the point:

“I really want to make this team, so this whole summer I’ve been really motivated trying to get bigger and stronger to get to where I need to be to make this team.”

I like the idea of an inspired Yamamoto. I don’t know how much size he can add to his frame, but I do like the idea of the kid that no one thought would be able to crack the roster last year and did being motivated to the point of forcing his way into a spot. Would you bet against him? I’m not sure that I would based on what happened last year, but let’s try to put the horse before the cart for once.

After getting nine games with the Oilers last season, Yamamoto was asked what he learned in that time.

“It’s a big, fast league and you can’t hold on to the puck too much.”

Even bigger when you’re Mighty Mouse, amirite? Sorry, I interrupted and that was rude. You were talking about what you’ve learned. Please, go on…

“A lot of guys are coming at you so you’ve got to move the puck quickly, make quicker decisions and get your shot off faster.”

I always think it’s interesting to hear prospects talk about how much faster the NHL game is compared to what they’re used to in junior. I mean, it’s not surprising at all but I can only imagine what it must be like for a guy like Yamamoto to have giant humans rushing at him as opposed to the fly-bys from 16 year olds that he was getting in Spokane.

“You can definitely get away with stuff (in junior) but I really worked on trying to do everything at an NHL level.”

I think that getting the nine-game taster was an invaluable experience for Yamamoto and I was happy to see that he used it as motivation after he went back to Spokane.

“Being up here last year really showed me how I needed to act and how I need to play. When I went back there I definitely tried to emulate that.”

I can’t help but think of how crazy that month or so must have been for Yamo. No one expected him to stick with the team out of training camp and the fact that he did was a major accomplishment, so it must have been a trip for the kid when he finally ended up back in junior.

“You have to look at the process and take it one step at a time and not too far ahead thinking you’re going to make the team.”

I was hoping that someone was going to ask about what it was like for him to go back to Spokane after spending nine games with the Oilers. Yamamoto had a slow start back in junior when he first got back and I was interested in knowing what he thought of that transition. I mean, you’d have to think it was upsetting going from private jets back to the long bus rides of the WHL. Obviously, he finished the season strong but I am curious to know about the first chunk of his return. Ah well, that’s in the past right, Kailer? Eyes forward. To infinity and beyond. All of that stuff.

“You have to put your best foot forward every day to make sure you’re doing all the right things.”

My man. Go kill it, kid. I don’t know if you’re going to land the spot you covet but I’m pulling for you. Gord knows we need you.

THE WRAP…

When I think of Yamamoto eyeing a roster spot as his goal for the summer, I can’t help but believe in his ability to do it. The Oilers need speed and skill on the wing and I think that this coming season will provide as good of a chance as any for him to crack the roster. At the very least, I know that he’s going to make it as tough as possible on the Oilers when it comes to cut time, and it will be interesting to see if anyone is going to be able to steal his spot away. Will the Oilers bring in a low-cost veteran to bolster the depth on the wings? If so, will that guy or guys be able to take the spot away from Yamamoto?

Whenever I think about Yamamoto I remember that this was the kid that told the Oilers he was going to haunt their dreams if they didn’t draft him and then went out and cracked the opening night roster when no one thought he could. Considering what he was able to accomplish as an undersized 18 year old, is it really that unreasonable to believe that he can crack the roster again and make it stick this time? Be it the right move or not, I can’t help but look at the depth chart and see that the Oilers don’t have a lot of skill on that right side nor do I see too many people that are standing in his way.

Right or wrong, with the depth chart looking as it does today, I almost wonder if there’s a spot on that right side that’s Yamamoto’s to lose.

Check out the full clip below:

YAMAMOTO’S CAREER SO FAR

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- PGP G A Pts PIM
2014-15 Spokane Chiefs WHL 68 23 34 57 50 12 6 2 3 5 6
2015-16 Spokane Chiefs WHL 57 19 52 71 34 20 6 1 4 5 10
2016-17 Spokane Chiefs WHL 65 42 57 99 46 14
2017-18 Edmonton Oilers NHL 9 0 3 3 2 -2
2017-18 Spokane Chiefs WHL 40 21 43 64 18 22 7 1 3 4 6
NHL Totals 9 0 3 3 2

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  • MotoDave118

    I really wan this kid to succeed! Lots of skill and with that chip on his shoulder he could be a steal for the oil but his size makes me wonder about durability.

  • MotoDave118

    I really wan this kid to succeed! Lots of skill and with that chip on his shoulder he could be a steal for the oil but his size makes me wonder about durability.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    Yamamoto making the team and being able to play well and chip in with, say, 20 goals would go a long way to solving some problems the OILERS have.

  • Carbonrod

    If Yamo makes the team I want it to be because he’s ready. I hope it’s not because of no better options. If he plays the whole year and breaks 30 points I would say he belongs in the NHL but there should be no pencilling him in. We can sign a few cheap UFA’s to hold a spot for a couple years and keep the prospects where they can develop.

  • Kevwan

    I would sign a couple forwards with some NHL experience. Say a Tom Kuhnackle and Daniel Carr. Throw them into the competition with Yamamoto, JP, Aberg etc. The 2 or 3 who have the best camps stay in Edmonton – those who don’t go to the AHL. Let the youngsters earn it for a change.

      • Kevwan

        Just threw him out there – RHS and RW . kills penalties. I thought he was OK in Pittsburgh in 16-17. 16 pts in 25 games but some Crosby bump. Didn’t see him a lot this past year. A better player would work

  • GK1980

    I’m Yamo fan and I’ll be hoping this kid succeeds. He looked good on his small sample size when he was playing on the roster last year. Could have easily had a couple goals, just no finish.

    • Carbonrod

      Yamamoto is an interesting prospect. He senses things at a high level and showed in pre-season that he was willing to work for what he got, and wasn’t bad during his 9 games. Picking what his ceiling will be is tough. He has a skill set to play on a scoring line but how much will his size hold him back in the big leagues.

  • DavidMcDavid

    I’d like to see us take an overly patient, old school Red Wings approach to the development of guys like Kailer, Benson, Bouchard, Bear, and Jones. With the cap hits of McDavid and Drai – the reality is that when high-end rookies on ELCs play, they have to contribute significantly. The development of JesseP shows that there is little development gain in having players that should be top 6 playing in bottom 6/ non PP roles. If Kailer makes it because he has an unreal camp/ pre-season/ start of season – great! If not, give him another year to develop and save the valuable ELC years for when we are on the cusp of a Cup. That’s likely not this year, I think this year is a success if we repeat on 2016/17 (get into the playoffs and win a round).

    • Big Nuggets

      I agree about slow playing the prospects. I firmly believe that some AHL time would be a great benefit to Yamamoto as it typically is for all prospects. Of course if he plays with McNuge he could have success scoring points but playing beside the best player in the world would not be good for evaluating his abilities. And might lead to overestimating him. I’m cheering for Yam and I think he will be an NHLer eventually, just sick of rushing young players into the league. The Condors should have a quality team this year so I hope the rookies don’t see it as a negative to play in Bakersfield.

      Personally I’m really excited about the Condors upcoming season. Bear Jones and Lagesson joining on defense and Marody Yam Benson and Hebig joining the offense will make things very interesting. Don’t want to put the horse before the cart but they should at least be in the playoff hunt, with the potential to win a couple rounds. And that scenario would be great from a development standpoint.