Kailer Yamamoto, an A-rated forward on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2017 NHL Draft, plays for Spokane of the Western Hockey League. Last season, his second in the WHL, the native of Spokane, Wash., had 19 goals and 71 points in 57 games. The 5-foot-7, 153-pound right wing has offered to maintain a monthly draft diary for NHL.com leading up to the 2017 draft in Chicago. Yamamoto's first post comes in the midst of a five-game road trip that concludes Saturday at Swift Current.
Hello hockey fans!
When I was growing up, my parents were really into sports. My dad raced motorcycles and played semipro soccer, but no one had a hockey background. My parents put my brother Keanu on the ice. He's two years older than me, and he fell in love with it. When I born, I also fell in love with the sport.
Everyone seems to think I'm from California because that's really where I started to improve my game. But I just moved down there for two years to play for the Los Angeles Under-16 Jr. Kings because the youth hockey in Spokane wasn't quite the same, so my brother and I moved out. I think I was 14 at the time. Those two years were probably the best times of my life. I lived three blocks away from the beach and did online school, waited until my billet brothers got home and then we'd go to the beach for a couple of hours and then practice. It was nice.
My brother is my favorite player to skate with, and to get the chance to play with him in Spokane is great. Our coach doesn't like to put us together that often because he wants to spread the offense. I know where Keanu is going on the ice most times, so it's easy to play with him. I can read off him really easily and he can read off me so it's fun.
I can't name one specific thing that makes my brother a special player, but I like his hockey IQ, his tenacity and his shot; his shot is better than mine. I can definitely work on all those areas and hopefully be as good as him one day.
The mother of [Tampa Bay Lightning forward] Tyler Johnson taught me how to skate, believe it or not. Tyler has had a huge influence on me. I work out with him every summer so I see him a lot. He stresses the importance of becoming a leader on the ice and to have that pro-like mentality and how you need to give it everything you've got every game and have no regrets on the ice. That's helped me a lot in my career and I'm looking forward to learning more from him every time I see him.
Whatever success I manage at Spokane is mostly through my hard work, getting on pucks quick and just getting in corners and not allowing other players much time to move the puck. I try and get on them and use my speed to the outside, move the puck. I also think my teammates have really helped me. It was a pretty nerve-wracking time this year and just having them around to talk and joke around with and get my mind off things helped me remain loose.
I think we have a young team in Spokane this season. Starting off the year we knew it would be tough, trying to get the young guys into the mix. We've played hard and we get to those gritty areas. I think what has been killing us is we've taken leads but then have been called for some tough penalties. Those small breakdowns hurt us, but once we figure it out I know we'll be a really good team.
As for the upcoming draft, that's something I'm really looking forward too. It's super exciting and still so surreal to know I'm in this situation. I try not to think about it a lot because while it is on my mind, I get nervous if I'm thinking too much about it. But it's definitely something I'm going to cherish for the rest of the season.
Until next time, thanks for reading.