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2017 NHL Draft prospect profile: Kailer Yamamoto is one of the best offensive talents this year

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Yamamoto was the most productive draft-eligible WHL forward

Spokane Chiefs v Calgary Hitmen Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

If you look at the point production of 17-year-old WHL prospects this season, one name jumps out at you. And it isn’t that of top prospect Nolan Patrick - even when adjusting for games played. The top draft eligible player in goals per game, primary points per game and points per game was Spokane Chiefs forward Kailer Yamamoto.

And before you ask why he isn’t higher among this year’s top prospects, let me stop you.

It’s because of his size.

The good news is that thanks to players like Mike Cammalleri, Tyler Johnson, Johnny Gaudreau and Brendan Gallagher, among others, Yamamoto is still ranked in the first round instead of dropping even farther.

Place of Birth: Spokane, Washington, USA
Shoots: Right
Position: Centre/Left Wing
Height: 5’8" Weight: 159 lbs

Eliteprospects.com

It’s easy to watch Yamamoto and fall into the trap of comparing him to other small forwards, and it wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to do so. Smaller forwards who have success at the NHL level do so with the same traits, some of which Yamamoto has: tons of skill, ability to find (and get lost in) space, and a shot that gets off quickly.

One of the biggest criticisms of Yamamoto is that scouts fear that he sets himself up to get hit.

He scored a goal at this year’s CHL Top Prospects game, and it should be noted that Yamamoto put up these numbers on one of the worst teams in the WHL. His Chiefs were among the six teams to not make the playoffs this season.

Yamamoto’s most recent season is when he took the next step in his development, setting career highs in every major offensive category and as mentioned above, he compared very favourably to consensus top prospect Nolan Patrick. Patrick dealt with injuries and only played 33 games, but even when taking into account per-game averages, Yamamoto compares favourably.

Player Goals/GP Primary A/GP Primary Pts/GP Points/GP GP G A P
Player Goals/GP Primary A/GP Primary Pts/GP Points/GP GP G A P
Kailer Yamamoto 0.65 0.52 1.17 1.52 65 42 57 99
Nolan Patrick 0.61 0.30 0.91 1.39 33 20 26 46

All numbers via Prospect-Stats.com

Scouting

Future Considerations:

A pint-sized, yet dynamic, playmaker… small, speedy forward with excellent hockey sense and quick hands…has a strong work ethic that keeps him going…great overall quickness, first-step jump to create separation and an ability to alter speeds to create gaps…sneaky and stealth-like in finding prime scoring ice…very creative with the puck and shows off creative hands…uses his size to squeak through the tightest of holes…is a force in possession as he likes the puck on his stick, and is dangerous as a set-up man or shooter in the offensive zone…poised, clutch and aware…feisty on the forecheck, not physically, but uses his speed to force opponents into rushed plays while clogging up passing lanes with an active stick…one of those rare wingers who has the ability to affect the flow of a game like a center…a very special talent, high octane and cerebral.

Rankings (note: these are not final rankings):

HockeyProspect: 22
ISS: 22
Future Considerations: 15
McKeen’s: 29
NHL Central Scouting (North America Skaters): 17

Thoughts

Yamamoto is one of those players who, when you look back at the 2017 Draft, you may point to and wonder why he went so low. There’s no discounting his skill, but there’s a reason why smaller players have struggled at the NHL level and the players named above are the exceptions and not the rule.

It’s possible that he drops to where the Canadiens pick in the first round. It’s possible he drops outside of the first round altogether. This draft has many players from 15-45 who could go in any spot in that range.

The irony is, Yamamoto may be exactly the type of skilled player the Canadiens need more of, but he’s exactly the type of player the team could avoid as they try to change their image of being a small team.