Yamamoto may be considered undersized at 5-foot-8 and 153 pounds — a fact general manager Peter Chiarelli has acknowledged.
But the 18-year-0ld right winger has done nothing but light up the Western Hockey League as a member of the Spokane Chiefs these past three seasons.
Two years ago, he scored 23 goals and 57 points with the Chiefs. In his draft year, he increased those totals to 42 goals and 99 points. Those are impressive numbers in junior, and there have been a number of smaller-in-stature players (like Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary) that have not only shown they belong in the NHL, but they’ve dominated with their skill.
He is small, but he’s strong and has tremendous heart and skill. We saw him a lot, and he didn’t disappoint,” said Chiarelli, who took Yamamoto to dinner with a few Oilers front office folks on Wednesday.
Chiarelli asked him, “Why should we draft you?” and loved the kid’s answer.
“That’s a standard question you ask, and I’ve never really heard this answer,” the GM laughed. “He said, ‘Because (if you don’t) I’m going to come back and haunt you.’ He’s a pretty confident kid, and he backs it up with his play.”
Yamamoto recently skated for Team USA at the World Junior Summer Showcase.
The Nashville Predators qualified for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second Wild Card team in the Western Conference. But it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish, and the Preds made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Now, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to translate the Stanley Cup run into regular-season dominance and more postseason success.
As of right now, they still have the same top four defensemen on their roster. They also added former Canadiens blue liner Alexei Emelin to fold.
Also, don’t forget that on top getting acclimated to his new surroundings last year, Subban also missed 16 games with an upper-body injury. If his postseason success carries over into the regular season, you can expect him to be a whole lot better in 2017-18.
Up front, GM David Poile was able to add a few interesting pieces via free agency. Nick Bonino, who is coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with Pittsburgh, will add some quality depth down the middle. His two-way style should make him an ideal candidate to center the second or third line.
Poile also signed veteran Scott Hartnell, who was bought out by the Blue Jackets. He’s back in Nashville after spending the first six years of his NHL career there. The veteran winger had 13 goals and 37 points in 78 games with Columbus last season.
Are those moves enough to propel them to another Stanley Cup Final berth in 2018? Well, lets look at the competition.
The San Jose Sharks were able to re-sign Joe Thornton, but they lost Patrick Marleau to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Other than losing Marleau, their roster hasn’t changed too much this summer.
Like the Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks didn’t make a huge acquisition this offseason. They managed to retain potential free agent Patrick Eaves, who they acquired from Dallas at the deadline. Still, they should be plenty competitive in the West this season.
The Stars went into last season with plenty of expectation, but they ultimately missed the mark completely by not even making the playoffs. This summer, they added goalie Ben Bishop and winger Alexander Radulov. Those two moves should help them get back on track.
The Minnesota Wild got off to a great start last year, but they weren’t able to sustain that once the playoffs came around. On paper, they still have a very talented roster that could compete with any team in the conference.
The St. Louis Blues went through a bit of a transition phase last season, but they still managed to finish in the top three of their division. It might be a bit of a stretch to consider them as legit candidates to win the West, but they aren’t far off.
How do the Predators stack up against these teams? Are they the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup Final?
Alright, I’m turning things over to you. Cast your vote in our poll and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.
PHT Morning Skate: Golden Knights prospects try to guess popular ’90s songs
–The Vegas Golden Knights added a number of quality prospects this offseason, but their knowledge of (questionable) ’90s songs is underwhelming. They had a hard time differentiating between Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Nick Suzuki is the prospect pictured at the top of the page. (Sportsnet)
–The Hockey News continues their “2020 Vision” preview. This time, they analyze what the Columbus Blue Jackets will look like in three years from now. That top pairing of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones is gonna be pretty tough to play against, but goaltending is clearly a question mark. (The Hockey News)
–If you’re not following Canucks defenseman Michael Del Zotto on Instagram, you’re missing out. His page is pretty interesting. There’s a picture of him filming a movie, another photo of him holding a baby lion and he has an action shot of him DJing an event. (NHL.com/Canucks)
–The Score is revisiting a number of key moments from the 1992-93 season, including Teemu Selanne’s incredible rookie numbers. James Bisson writes: “The electrifying winger known as the Finnish Flash put together the most incredible rookie season in NHL history, racking up 76 goals and 132 points to establish a pair of records that haven’t been challenged since. In fact, no first-year player has even come within 20 goals of Selanne’s mark – making it one of the most incontestable records in league annals.” (The Score)
—Johnny Gaudreau is giving back to the community that helped him develop into the hockey player he has become today. Later today, he’ll be hosting a golf tournament to raise money for the Gloucester Catholic School in Jersey. “We made it possible for Johnny and his family to come to Gloucester Catholic and they wanted to give something back so we decided to have this golf tournament and all proceeds go to Gloucester Catholic financial aid/scholarship fund. Last year was the first year and it was very successful. Last year we cleared $55,000 and we hope to do better this year through sponsors and participants.” (Courier-Post)
Gaudreau — a South Jersey native who grew up cheering for the Flyers, but currently stars for the Calgary Flames — has now been offered a chance to clarify a few things about that interview.
“I think if you ask any player in the NHL if they’d like to play in their hometown at some point they’d all say it would be pretty sweet,” Gaudreau told the Courier-Post in a Q&A. “You’ve got friends, you’ve got family, you’ve got kids you went to school with, you’ve got teachers, you name it. You’ve got people that will be supporting you. The people support me down here, like it’s crazy down here. I’m just really fortunate they follow me up in Calgary.
“I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great city and they’re so passionate about our team. It’s a real hockey city. I really enjoy it up there, don’t get me wrong, but I think if you ask any player if he wants to play in his hometown they’d say it would be pretty cool to do that.
“I’ve still got five more years on my contract and who knows…if we’re playing well up here in Calgary I could end up staying another four or five years there because I love the city so much. It’s tough to have all those articles come out when it’s something so small, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
It’s certainly possible that Gaudreau opts to explore unrestricted free agency when his contract expires. But he doesn’t have that option until 2022.
The Calgary Flames signed restricted free agent Micheal Ferland to a two-year contract this week and seem really excited about his potential in the coming seasons, with general manager Brad Treliving saying (via Postmedia’s Kristen Odland) “the sky is the limit” for him going forward.
It’s an interesting mix because Gaudreau and Monahan are high-skill players (two of the the best and most productive in the league) while Ferland is more of a bull in a china shop kind of forward that hits everything that he can.
But he also has some skill to his game (he did score 15 goals this past season) and has worked well with that duo in the past.
In 2016-17, for example, they spent more than 250 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time together and were one of the Flames’ most impactful lines, outscoring teams by a 16-10 margin and controlling the shot attempt differential. In close to 400 minutes over the past two seasons it’s a 21-16 goal edge with a 52 percent Corsi for that line (data via Puckalytics). Given the success it certainly makes sense to start the year trying it out.
Expectations in Calgary are going to be through the roof this season. Not only because they have a promising young core coming back from a playoff appearance, because they went out this summer and picked up two key pieces in defenseman Travis Hamonic in an effort to build a Nashville-style top-four on defense that can control the game, but also because they went out and picked up Mike Smith to hopefully solidify their goaltending position.