Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2 years ago
You can’t score 10 goals or 20 goals or even 30 until you get the first one. Seeing Kailer Yamamoto take care of that pressing bit of business in a 5-2 win over the Seattle Kraken on Monday after 24 games of bupkis isn’t only good for him but for the Edmonton Oilers.
Without a single point this season to hang his hat on, Yamamoto took a feed from Leon Draisaitl and went backhand to forehand to the tuck puck between the legs of Joey Daccord for the Oilers fifth goal. It didn’t make a difference in copping the two points, but I’m guessing there’s every chance it’ll make a difference to Yamamoto.
Undersized players like Yamamoto who move well, pressure the puck, create turnovers, check well, have a nose for the blue paint and can find the back of the net 15-20 times a season will always have work in the NHL. They can play alongside a talent like big Draisaitl, who had two goals and four points Monday to earn a share of the NHL scoring lead with Connor McDavid.
Take away the last component, the ability to finish, and a player can go from playing a top six spot to the bottom six as a depth player, or worse, faster than you can say, “close but no cigar.” Pedigree doesn’t matter. Where you were selected in your draft year doesn’t matter. Neither does the 42 goals you scored that one season in major junior – or the 11 you celebrated in just 27 games a couple of years back.
When you’re 23 and have just 113 NHL games on your resume, 24 games with no sniff is forever. It will wear on you.
Nov 1, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto (56) scores a third period goal against Seattle Kraken goaltender Joey Daccord (35) at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
That 5-2 goal guarantees Yamamoto nothing on the scoresheet when Nashville comes calling Wednesday, but it’s at least a place to start for a player who was hotter than a $3 pistol on a line with Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a stretch in 2019-20. It not only provides coach Dave Tippett reason to believe Yamamoto can help in in the top six, it does the same for the kid. As overused as the term “confidence” is, it matters.
“He always works,” Tippett said of Yamamoto, who raised the expectations of many with an unsustainable, Craig Simpson-like 25.0 shooting percentage in 2019-20. “He is competitive, but at some point (you) have to start finding some results. Hopefully, that will loosen up the grip on his stick a bit.
“When you have circles in all those columns (on the score sheet), that weighs on your mind. He’s got the first one behind him now. Hopefully, he’ll start capitalizing on some more opportunities.”
The Oilers’ bench erupted when Yamamoto slipped the rubber between Daccord’s pads. At the same time, you could see in his face it was a monkey-off-the-back moment for Yamamoto. “It’s huge,” he said. “It’s being able to go in that huddle and all those guys are rooting for me to score. It just means a lot.”
Previously by Robin Brownlee
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