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Yamamoto a revelation for Oilers in preseason

First-year forward works way on to opening night roster

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Rookie forward Kailer Yamamoto earned a spot on the Edmonton Oilers' opening night roster with a strong performance in the preseason.

"I think I've just played my game, I'm trying to work hard every day," Yamamoto said. "I'm not trying to do too much. The guys have really taken me in and they've helped me get my confidence up and be able to know that I can play with them and they've just done a phenomenal job with me."

Yamamoto, 19, was not expected to be with the Oilers at this point. The fact he will open the 2017-18 season with them against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Place on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV) is a surprise.

"When we were in the planning stages of training camp after the [2017 NHL Draft], I didn't have him penciled in," coach Todd McLellan said Monday. "But he came here and opened up our eyes, and I feel comfortable putting him on the ice. He's earned the right to open the season with our team."

Yamamoto, selected No. 22 in the 2017 draft, had seven points (five goals, two assists) in six preseason games.

The small right wing (5-foot-8, 153 pounds) from Spokane, Washington, scored in his preseason debut, a 5-4 win at the Flames on Sept. 18, and again in a 4-1 win at the Winnipeg Jets two nights later. Yamamoto scored twice in a 5-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Sept. 22 and had a goal in a 6-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sept. 25.

Video: EDM@WPG: Yamamoto notches empty-net goal to seal game

His performance made it difficult for the Oilers to send him back to his junior team, Spokane of the Western Hockey League.

"It doesn't mean that will continue; he's got to pick up his game now and it's going to get tougher," McLellan said. "But, in our opinion, he won that job and it's as simple as that. That's why you have training camp, guys compete from Day One on."

Last season, Yamamoto had 99 points (42 goals, 57 assists) in 65 games for Spokane. He is expected to play Wednesday on Edmonton's second line with center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and left wing Milan Lucic.

Reigning NHL MVP, Connor McDavid, will center the Oilers' top line with left wing Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl at right wing.

"Good for him. He came in here and I don't think many people expected him to have a job and he found a way to battle for at least an opening night job," McDavid said. "It's good for him, he's going to get a chance to show what he's got in the real thing."

Yamamoto had an opportunity to play on a line with McDavid in the preseason. McDavid was the top scorer in the NHL preseason with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in five games. Yamamoto was tied for fourth.

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