Last night, the Edmonton Oilers made it official with their first round draft choice from this past June’s NHL entry draft. The club agreed to a three-year entry-level contract with Kailer Yamamoto, locking him into Edmonton until at least 2020 should he make the club this fall.
While it shouldn’t have, the deal appeared to come as a surprise to many Oiler fans when it was announced. Most people, myself included, don’t believe Yamamoto has a real shot at making the Edmonton roster this fall and will likely head back to Spokane of the WHL this winter. It would have been easy to put this deal off until next year.
That said, it is not uncommon for NHL teams to sign their first round picks in the summer after drafting them. This will not only allow Yamamoto to attend camp this fall, but it will also allow him to play in as many as nine NHL games with the big club before the deal counts for one season. Could the Oilers be willing to let Yamamoto tryout?
The skilled forward is mature for his draft year, having just missed the cutoff for the 2016 selection process. On top of that, the skills are there for Yamamoto and he has proven to be an impact player at the WHL level. Just this past season, the American forward registered 42-57-99 in 65 games.
Edmonton is also lacking at right wing, and if Jesse Puljujarvi struggles in training camp the club could look to Yamamoto to fill that second line spot. Unlikely, but still a possibility nonetheless. Personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable with that but I don’t think we can completely discount the Oilers doing this. They don’t exactly have a tendency to slow-play young forwards.
What This Actually Means:
Sure, what I’ve written above is all possible. The Oilers COULD be willing to let Yamamoto play a few regular season games this fall, but I highly doubt it. The Oilers are in win-now mode and, unless he destroys training camp and preseason, Yamamoto likely doesn’t have a spot on this team.
He’ll play a featured role for Spokane this season and will likely play a featured role for Team USA at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo this December.
The Oilers are also sold on Jesse Puljujarvi, and they will give the young Finnish forward every chance this fall and winter to show that he belongs in the NHL. If/when he proves the Oilers right, the right wing depth chart will be set with both Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Strome seeing some time at the position as well. Again, no room at the inn for Yamamoto as my friend Lowetide would say.
Essentially, the Oilers are rewarding Yamamoto for what was a terrific World Junior Summer Showcase at the start of the month. He was Team USA’s most dynamic forward, impacted every game he played in, and caught the eyes of writers and scouts all over the league.
This locks Yamamoto in with the Oilers and prevents any potential issues down the road should he vastly outperform his draft number, something he has already started to do. There will be no arguing about bonuses with this late first round pick. He’s already signed, sealed and delivered.
As for the impact on the 50-man list, Yamamoto will not be a factor come the regular season. Like both Dylan Wells and Tyler Benson, Yamamoto is a slide-rule contract and will not count towards the 50-man once he is sent back to juniors. Once all three head back to their respective junior clubs, the Oilers will have a bit of a cushion on that list.
It’s an exciting time for the Oilers, and a very exciting young player is now under contract. The house keeping of summer time continues for Peter Chiarelli and his staff. Now, about that Leon guy…..