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Photo Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

LAING: Edmonton Oilers Kailer Yamamoto is here to stay

Kailer Yamamoto is an NHL player and he’s here to stay.

If he owned or rented a place in Bakersfield, it’s time to break that deal and find a nice place in Edmonton, because he’s not going back to the minors.

The small but feisty forward has found himself as a key piece on the Edmonton Oilers second line alongside Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The trio has been nearly unstoppable on the ice together since they were put together on New Year’s Eve. And it appears that Yamamoto has been a missing link for the Edmonton Oilers.

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He’s been able to step into top-six minutes and not look out of place for a minute. Despite his 5’8″, 153 lb. stature, he’s played well above his size offering a physical game with tenacious offensive zone forechecks. He’s found himself in the right areas around the puck with a knack for scoring the “dirty goals” off rebounds and loose pucks. Edmonton’s needed a player like him in the offensive zone.

His defensive zone play, too, has been rock solid. Yamamoto shows strong defensive awareness and has a knack for getting sticks in the lanes of shots and passes. There have been multiple times where his aggressive defensive play has created turnovers giving the Oilers the quick ability to attack. Yamamoto has created 10 takeaways in his 11 games — the second most in that time behind Draisaitl’s 11, and two more than Nugent-Hopkins’ eight.

On top of all that, his scoring rate has been tremendous. All five goals and five assists are primary points with none of his assists being secondary.

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The Line

The raw stats are great for all three of them in this 11 game stretch.

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Draisaitl has scored 7G-15A—22. Nugent-Hopkins has scored 7-10—17. Yamamoto has socred 5-5—10.

Now here’s a look at the Oilers numbers at 5v5 (score and venue adjusted) when they are on the ice vs. when none of them on the ice these past 11 games.

TOI CF% GF% xGF% PDO
With 93-27-57 on ice 126:37 54.95 86.51 57.7 112.6
Without 93-27-57 on ice 337:46 53.49 51.28 54.7 99.1

Stats via Natural Stat Trick.

Edmonton has driven play better and had much better goal rates with them on the ice. It’s important to note that with the trio on the ice, they’ve had an unsustainably high PDO (combined shooting % and save %) meaning there will be some regression in their game.

At the end of the day, they continue to be a dangerous and effective line every single time they step onto the ice. Even Friday night matchup against the defending Stanely Cup champions, the trio drove play and scored goals despite seeing a lot of Alex Pietrangelo.

The rundown

Edmonton has shown a new ability to develop prospects and Yamamoto is one of the shining young stars this organization can be proud of. Along with Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones and soon Tyler Benson, Edmonton is showing their ability to draft and develop — something the organization has sorely missed for a long time.

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Yamamoto is proving early on in his NHL career night in and night out that he is a bona fide top-six player in the league and I don’t see him ever returning to the AHL. There surely will be some adversity he faces this season so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

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On Twitter: @zjlaing

THE HAIR MASSACURE

Hair Massacure is taking over Edmonton this winter to support the fight against childhood cancer and grant wishes to some extraordinary young patients. On February 21, 2020 thousands of heads will be shaved, once again, in honour of the journey of sick children losing their hair due to chemotherapy. All funds raised go to Children’s Wish Foundation and Terry Fox PROFYLE. You can help. Go to www.hairmassacure.com to learn more.