EDMONTON, AB - Kailer Yamamoto had himself an impressive training camp and pre-season. The 2017 22nd-overall pick, despite his small stature, stood large in the face of an open camp competition.
"Good for him," said Oilers Captain Connor McDavid. "He came in 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. Good for him. He's going to get a chance to show what he's got in the real thing."
For Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan, the reason Yamamoto has stuck was clear in the "evidence," meaning the games he played.
"It doesn't mean that will continue," said McLellan. "He's got to pick his game up now, it's going to get tougher. In our opinion, he won that job. It's as simple as that. That's why you have training camp. Guys compete from day one on, and when we were in the planning stages of training camp after the draft, I didn't have him penciled in. But he came here and he opened up our eyes. I feel comfortable putting him on the ice and he's earned the right to open the season with our team."
The Oilers trust in Yamamoto. The 19-year-old has earned that trust. His consistency will have to be something that continues if he wants to last in the NHL this season.
"He doesn't change his game," said McLellan. "I think a lot of the 18 and 19-year-olds, they bring something to the table and then they either get too safe or they get too risky. Yamo plays the game the same way night in and night out. He makes good, smart plays. He's very intelligent, so you can trust him with whether it's penalty killing, power play or in the d-zone. He's not the biggest guy, so he's learned to use his instincts and his intelligence to be productive. Trust is a big thing for young players as they enter the league. The coaching staff, his teammates, they all have to trust him and I think Yamo has earned that to this point."