The talk of the town? Well, that would be 18-year-old Kailer Yamamoto.
When Kailer came into camp, expectations weren’t high for the Spokane product. He had a below average showing at the team’s rookie tournament and most didn’t think he had any shot at making the team this year.
Now we’re over halfway through the preseason and as I type this, no player in the NHL has scored more goals this pre-season than the 5’8 Yamamoto. He’s set himself up nicely, and tonight he’ll be rewarded as Todd McLellan has him on the top line with Connor McDavid for the teams pre-season game against Carolina.
He’s still nothing close to a lock to make the team and even if he goes back to the WHL for another year, which I expect he will, it looks like the Oilers got a real steal at 22nd overall. I took a look at the previous ten drafts and the players taken at that spot:
2016 – German Rubstov – Philadelphia
2015 – Ilya Samsonov – Washington
2014 – Kasperi Kapanen – Pittsburgh
2013 – Emile Poirier – Calgary
2012 – Olli Maatta – Pittsburgh
2011 – Tyler Biggs – Toronto
2010 – Jarred Tinordi – Montreal
2009 – Jordan Schroeder – Vancouver
2008 – Jordan Eberle – Edmonton
2007 – Max Pacioretty – Montreal
A few decent names of late with the likes of Maatta, Samsonov, and Kapanen. But in recent memory, there aren’t too many notable names until you go back nine years ago when the Oilers got Jordan Eberle in that spot. Eberle was sent back to junior for two more seasons but went on to play 507 games with the Oilers and scored 382 points. Great value for that 22nd spot.
The biggest hit came in 2007 when the Habs got Max Pacioretty at 22nd. Ten years and over 500 games later, Pacioretty wears the C and is the main source of offense for the Canadiens. However, he didn’t jump straight to the NHL either. He went back for one more year in college, then bounced between the NHL and AHL for three seasons before finally sticking with Montreal.
In the last ten drafts, there have only been two real impact players taken 22nd overall, and the Oilers may have found the next one. But the thing to remember is that neither of those two players saw a single regular season game in the year after they were picked, so if Yamamoto does go back, it shouldn’t be seen as a sign of incompetence.
On the other hand, just because he’s 18-years-old and under-sized doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be given an honest shot at making this team. I’m a big believer that where a player was picked in the draft doesn’t matter as soon as he puts the jersey on. In my mind, it doesn’t matter if you were picked 1st overall or in the 6th round, if you come in and play well enough to earn a spot, you should get a spot.
If Yamamoto continues his solid play, he should be on this team come October 4th, if he doesn’t then he can go rip up the WHL for a year, and thats certainly not a bad thing.