Kailer Yamamoto has been trying to find the range since being sent back to the WHL by the Edmonton Oilers. The club’s first round pick from this past June dressed in nine NHL games and looked the part most of the time. He registered 0-3-3 and had ample opportunity to score his first NHL goal during that stretch. The Oilers, however, opted for the safer long-term play and sent the dynamic youngster back to Spokane.
Since rejoining the Chiefs, Yamamoto has 1-8-9 in ten games, lackluster numbers for a player that posted 42-57-99 in 65 contests a year ago. Many people, myself included, would chalk the slow start up to disappointment on the player’s part. Yamamoto was arguably Edmonton’s best forward in training camp and did play well during his NHL stint. It has to be frustrating for the player to get a taste of the big leagues only to be sent back to the long bus rides of junior hockey.
I agreed with Edmonton’s decision to send him back, and I suspect Yamamoto will be well over a point-per-game by the time the WHL season ends this spring. One thing that could wake Yamamoto up? His inclusion on Team USA’s preliminary roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship.
Team USA is going to have yet another good roster going to this event, and Yamamoto is likely to play a major role for the group. Just by quickly glancing the roster, Yamamoto appears to be one of the most skilled forwards in the group. In fact, I’d label him and Casey Mittelstadt (BUF’s 2017 first rounder) as the most skilled players on the roster. He’s going to play a major role for this team.
It’s also good news for Oiler fans. Over the last few seasons, very few Edmonton prospects have taken part in this event. In fact, the last major Oiler prospect to play in the World Juniors was Darnell Nurse. Of course, Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi both also played, but they hadn’t been drafted by the club yet.
This is a great step for Yamamoto, and like I said above it could be the thing that wakes him up from his slow start in the WHL.
As for other Oiler prospects at the event, I suspect Tyler Benson gets an invite to Team Canada’s camp, but I’m not sure he’ll be on the final roster. I suspect Ostap Safin and Kirill Maksimov will also get looks from their respective countries to participate in this event.