Kailer Yamamoto can (almost) single-handedly be credited with saving the Edmonton Oilers 2019-20 season.
He was recalled to the big club ahead of a New Years Eve match with the New York Rangers and immediately made an impact scoring in his first game.
And from there, he never looked back piling up 26 points in 27 games down the stretch. He had six multi-point games that included one three-point performance.
He found tremendous chemistry alongside Leon Draisiatl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. His underlying was strong with a great goals for rate likely in thanks to a high PDO.
The trio quickly became the Oilers top line and when McDavid went down with a quad injury, they picked up their pace even more.
His isolated impacts in the offensive zone were tremendous. He provided offence at a nine per cent rate higher than that of the league average and defensively, his defence was at league average.
Those are seriously impressive numbers for a rookie who only played 26 games prior to this year’s recall. He stepped onto the scene in Edmonton and filled a massive hole in the Oilers top-six as a consistent scoring threat night in and night out.
Yamamoto has quickly established himself as a player who can be relied on and is a threat at both ends of the ice.
While he can dart and dash around the offensive zone winning puck battles and finding teammates, his defensive play had been amazing, too. He showed off his high hockey IQ by being in plenty of right places at right times and broke up offensive zone chances by opposing teams on a nightly basis. An undersized player, he has great body awareness and doesn’t shy from initiating contact.
Aptly nicknamed the honey badger, Yamamoto is here to stay in Edmonton.
Expectations on Yamamoto are high, and I think that he can handle it. He’s got himself a great linemate in Draisaitl that led the league in scoring by a mile, and appears to have all of the tools needed to have a long, successful career in the NHL.
Against Chicago and into the playoffs, Yamamoto is going to be expected to continue with his stellar two-way play not only contributing offensively but defensively, too. Playing alongside Draisaitl means there’s often the toughest of matchups against opposing teams.
There’s no reason that he shouldn’t be contributing at least a .75 point per game pace moving forward so long as he’s with Draisaitl. I don’t foresee this being something he is unable to handle.
On Twitter: @zjlaing