Kailer Yamamoto didn’t get selected until the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. A few months later and, according to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, he could make the Edmonton Oilers out of training camp at the age of 19.
The Oilers would still have the option to send Yamamoto back to junior after nine games and avoid burning a year of his entry-level contract. Last season, the 5-foot-8 forward lit up the Western Hockey League, with 99 points in 65 games as a member of the Spokane Chiefs.
Judging by the story of his answer to a question during a pre-draft interview, Yamamoto is certainly confident in his abilities. He was able to back it up in junior with another massive year, and now he’s making an impact on the Oilers through training camp.
Yamamoto will open the regular season with the Oilers against the Calgary Flames here on Wednesday. It’s just that no one wants to say it out loud quite yet.
“If we had to make a decision right now, he would start the season (in the NHL),” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli told Sportsnet on Friday, while taping an interview to run closer to Opening Night. “We’ve still got some time left, but he’s certainly earned the spot he is in right now.”
The Oilers have one more preseason game remaining on their schedule. That goes Saturday against the Canucks. They will then host the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 4 to open the regular season.
A number of players that are smaller in stature have been able to make an impact in the NHL, causing problems for opponents with their speed or their deft skill. Look no further than Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary. Or Viktor Arvidsson in Nashville. Or Tyler Johnson in Tampa Bay.
“He’s gotten better with better players. He’s gotten better, progressively, against better players,” said Chiarelli, per the Edmonton Journal. “You have to be careful with players of that size and stature at that age, but he’s very durable. He doesn’t get hit. He rolls off of checks. He’s one of those guys, he’s just very elusive.”