A couple days ago Kailer Yamamoto signed his entry level deal with the Edmonton Oilers. Yamamoto finds himself in the company of the Oilers skilled forward prospects Jesse Puljujarvi, Tyler Benson... and that's pretty much it. The Oilers forward prospect cupboards are pretty barren making it all the more essential for these players to turn into successful NHLers.
Let's focus on young Yamamoto. Kailer is listed as 5'8 and 153lbs and like most heights and weights listed we should probably knock an inch off the height and about 10 pounds off the weight. Suffice it to say, Yamamoto is not an imposing player. Yamamoto is the smallest player to ever be selected in the first round.
Despite his diminutive dimensions, Yamamoto made quite a name for himself in his draft year; going 42-57-99 with the Spokane Chiefs.He led his team in scoring and when you look at his supporting cast it's clear he was the one driving offense. With his small stature and scoring prowess he has already begun to receive comparisons to Johnny Gaudreau. The comparisons are easy to note, both players are shorter and under 160lbs and wingers who use their stature to get to the open areas of the ice.
I'm going to immediately put on the brakes here and backtrack. I am not suggesting Yamamoto will be as good as Gaudreau, sorry Oiler fans but Johnny Hockey (still an awful nickname) can play. While both players have similar statures, their paths to the NHL couldn't be more different. Gaudreau played college hockey until he was 21 while Yamamoto will be going back to the WHL and eventually the AHL. It won't be until we see Yamamoto make the jump to the NHL that we will know if he can play effective as a pro.
It's easy to want to make comparisons with these players because of their stature. It's very uncommon to see players like this not only make the NHL, but to play effectively. However there are some noteworthy names that have turned into prolific scorers.
Tyler Johnson - 5'8 185lbs
Conor Sheary - 5'9 175lbs
Mats Zucarello - 5'7 179lbs
Cam Atkinson - 5'8 180lbs
As far as size goes, Gaudreau is the closest match but in terms of career path we should be looking at Tyler Johnson. Below are his numbers.
*stats courtesy of hockeydb
Though he went undrafted as an 18 year old, Johnson played at a PPG level. At age 20 he was the top scorer on his team, and like Yamamoto was the clear driver of offense. After two very successful years in the AHL, Johnson made the jump to the NHL full time at age 23.
The fact that Yamamoto did at 18 what Johnson did at 20 shows that KY is currently ahead in his development but the last thing we should be discussing is Yamamoto playing in the NHL this upcoming season. At the very least Yamamoto should go back to the Chiefs for another full year and then likely spend the next season in the AHL. Of the above listed players, not one of them made the jump to the NHL before the age of 20. Gaudreau was the youngest playing his first full season at age 21 (he played 1 game at age 20).
Patience is not necessarily something the Oilers fanbase is known for but it will be imperative that fans take their time with this kid. With the likes of Strome, Draisaitl, and Puljujarvi the Oilers have options at RW for the next few years. For this team to be competitive over the next decade they will need to draft well and have young, affordable options to fill out the roster. It may take a few years but Yamamoto could be a key piece to that puzzle.
Thanks for reading!