EDMONTON, AB - When Kailer Yamamoto found himself with eight goals in 52 games after the 2020-21 season, the message in his exit interview was clear: shoot the pill.
A snake-bitten sophomore year saw the 22nd-overall selection from the 2017 NHL Draft collect five goals in his opening 20 matches and three in the final 32, settling for an underwhelming 0.15 goals per game average.
Yamamoto's output paled in comparison to his production from the '19-20 season when he counted 11 goals in 27 contests as the right-side flank for Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. At that time, he was a trigger-happy winger with a 25 percent shooting clip from 44 shots on goal. The safety's since been toggled, though, as Yamamoto mustered 69 shots total in '20-21.
Video: HIGHLIGHTS | Scrimmage 09.25.21
"He's got not a bad little release in tight there but he's got to use it more," Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "That was the message to him at the end of last year. I know he's practiced it a lot, we'll see if he uses it a lot."
At Thursday's Training Camp scrimmage, Yamamoto sniped goaltender Mike Smith from the top of the slot with a clean wrister and beat the keeper again with a knuckling one-timer from in-tight on Saturday. Off the ice, the 5-foot-8, 153-pounder spoke of the dedication he made to improve the release, accuracy and strength of his shot after firing weighted pucks at the shooter tutor his father crafted back home.
"I shot about 150 orange pucks a day and 150 black pucks throughout the summer," Yamamoto told media members from the Oilers Hall of Fame Room.
Video: RAW | Kailer Yamamoto 09.25.21
Suffice to say dad's shooter tutor was a success. All week long, Yamamoto's teammates made note of his upgraded marksmanship and suggested he utilize it by adopting a shooter's mentality.
"There's a little bit more zip to his shot, I can see that. But a lot of times it's a mindset, right?" said Leon Draisaitl, who boasts one of the most lethal releases in the League.
"When you get a 2-on-1, when you have a chance in that tight space or an open net or breakaway, that you really bear down and make the most of it. I think that's something as a young player that I had to learn, too. I went through the exact same thing Yamo went through. Sometimes it takes a little bit for it to click more than the actual shooting part."
Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 09.24.21
Yamamoto's apprehension could derive from skating alongside the League's elites in Connor McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins. However, he's aware of the offence that could be unearthed if he got greedy.
"I need to be a little bit more selfish and just be able to shoot the puck this year," Yamamoto said. "The NHL is about just finding new ways to score every time. You can't score 40 goals around the net. You got to find new ways by being able to score from outside and in close."
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. This season, for Yamamoto, that shouldn't be the case. "He told me his dad built a shooting ramp for him in the backyard and he's been shooting all summer," Tippett said.
"Hopefully he takes that to heart."