Only a few extra sleeps for Kailer Yamamoto till his long-awaited probability to make the Edmonton Oilers.
He survived the ultimate cuts final season, displaying indicators of the imaginative and prescient, fingers and elusiveness the Oilers hoped would translate to the Nationwide Hockey League once they drafted him 22nd total final summer season, however it wasn’t sufficient to lock down a everlasting gig, and 9 video games later, he was again in junior.
This time, he says, will probably be completely different.
“Final 12 months, I didn’t actually know what to anticipate, didn’t know what I used to be moving into,” mentioned the diminutive 19-year-old, who admits it was just a little overwhelming to stroll right into a dressing room and see Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic, then look throughout the ice and see Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Being 19 and seeing that, you’re like ‘Oh my.’ In the future, you’re watching them on TV, and 6 months later, you might be enjoying in opposition to them. It’s fairly loopy. Taking part in in opposition to Crosby… he was my childhood hero.
“However now, I simply take a look at them as gamers. All of us play the sport we love. This time, I really feel just a little bit extra snug. It’s an exhilarating time and I’m trying ahead to it.”
The Oilers need this to occur as a lot as Yamamoto does, if no more. If he doesn’t make the crew out of camp this time, Yamamoto is aware of will probably be there for him finally, and that the wait will, in all probability, have been for the very best.
However the Oilers, who’ve missed the playoffs 11 of the final 12 years, don’t have the posh of endurance. At the least not on the teaching and administration stage.
Followers will present up and fill the constructing irrespective of how lengthy it takes for the group to be good once more, of that there’s little or no concern. However for head coach Todd McLellan, who has three new assistant coaches after final 12 months’s failure, together with a few head teaching candidates in Glen Gulutzan and Trent Yawney, the time for severe progress is now.
And normal supervisor Peter Chiarelli most likely doesn’t wish to be standing there justifying why he ought to keep on as GM after buying and selling Taylor Corridor and Jordan Eberle after which lacking the playoffs for the third time in 4 years with Connor McDavid.
This isn’t to recommend that the season rests on Yamamoto’s shoulders; there are many different components that can decide what route the Oilers take this 12 months. The blue-line is a matter, goalie Cam Talbot must rediscover his type of two years in the past, Milan Lucic must earn extra of his $6-million wage than he did final 12 months, particular groups want fixing, and the massive and supremely proficient Leon Draisaitl must impose his will on a recreation extra usually than a few times every week.
There’s a lot that must be higher with this crew.
Chiarelli has labored exhausting in the summertime to solidify his backside six and tackle the problems that plagued them on particular groups, signing Kyle Brodziak and welcoming Scottie Upshall and Alex Chiasson to camp on PTOs.
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However, except some surprises come leaping out of the woodwork this season, there’s not a lot depth or wiggle room within the high six. McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may be counted on, however after that, it’s a solid of gamers who must be carrying query marks on the backs of their sweaters as an alternative of numbers, significantly on the appropriate aspect.
They’ve acquired Ty Rattie, Jesse Puljujarvi, Pontus Aberg, Tobias Rieder, and probably Ryan Strome. There may be some potential there, however no one who screams automated first- or second-line right-winger.
So it might be good if Yamamoto, the 22nd choose in final 12 months’s draft, can show he’s just a little bit forward of schedule and able to tackle the minutes and accountability on a crew dealing with monumental stress to achieve success.
It’s loads to ask of a 19-year-old 154-pounder, however the Oilers have painted themselves right into a place the place they may simply must ask.
And that’s fantastic by him as a result of he has designs on filling that spot anyway.
“I feel it’s simply going on the market and enjoying your recreation and never look an excessive amount of into (the depth chart),” he mentioned of Edmonton’s want for somebody to step up and fill a vital void. “If I play to my capabilities, I’ve a very good shot at making the crew.
“I really feel actually assured. I’ve been coaching for all of it summer season and I’m actually trying ahead to getting on the ice and displaying them what I can do.”
Oilers coach sees a extra assured, snug Yamamoto
If being snug and assured is half the battle, then Jay Woodcroft thinks Kailer Yamamoto is effectively on his approach to turning into an Edmonton Oiler this 12 months.
He noticed him for these 9 video games final season whereas serving as an assistant coach in Edmonton and has already seen an enchancment within the early days of rookie camp.
“I feel his familiarity with the atmosphere has helped him,” mentioned Woodcroft, who’s now the top coach for the AHL Bakersfield Condors. “Incomes a spot at first of final season, he understands the dynamics of the room, he has a relationship with among the coaches, he feels very assured coming into this 12 months.
“And on the ice, you see quite a lot of the attributes that helped him make the crew final 12 months. He’s sensible, he has an amazing stick, he anticipates very effectively, and he’s a kind of guys who can play on each particular groups, which is a vital talent to have.”
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On Twitter: @Rob_Tychkowski