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FEATURE: Yamamoto more comfortable

"He's not a big guy but he plays hard and he's got the skill to make plays… That's what we'll give him an opportunity to do," Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said of Kailer Yamamoto

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Joakim Nygard doesn't know Kailer Yamamoto all too well but he knows what players of his ilk are capable of. 

"Those players are really tricky and hard to play against. They're really quick in the corners and can turn fast," Nygard said Monday following Oilers practice.  

"I think we need a guy like him on the team. He can create some energy and score some goals too."

Video: OILERS TODAY | New Year's Shift

Yamamoto, the 5-foot-8, 153-pound forward, was called up to the Oilers on Sunday and is expected to draw into the lineup when the team hosts the New York Rangers on New Year's Eve.

At Monday's practice, the 21-year-old skated on the right side of centreman Leon Draisaitl while the aforementioned Nygard flanked the left.

There's a sense of optimism the small winger can come up big by bolstering Edmonton's attack when paired with one of the team's quickest players and a 50-goal, 100-point pivot. 

Nygard already has an idea of how the offensive assault could look.

"I think we know how we want to create offence," Nygard, who edged Oilers Captain Connor McDavid by three one-hundredths of a second in the Fastest Skater event at Sunday's Skills Competition, said. 

"Both me and Yamo are good skaters. We want to win some pucks and try to spread out the D. Draisaitl is a really good passing player and goal scorer. He should have a lot of pucks and we should be there winning them for him and trying to get open."

Video: RAW | Tippett

Yamamoto, the 22nd-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, has spent this season with the American Hockey League's Bakersfield Condors but has experience at the National Hockey League level after appearing in 17 games last year.

In 23 outings with Bakersfield in '19-20, Yamamoto's produced eight goals and 16 points. And in his last game, he tallied the game-winning goal on the power play.

"He played 23 minutes, had a goal, assist and drew three penalties," Tippett said of Yamamoto's performance in the Condors' 4-3 win over the Stockton Heat on Saturday. 

"We're looking for a little more tenacity and some people who can make some plays up here. He's the guy that fit the bill."

Video: RAW | Yamamoto

The 21-year-old isn't considered a rookie and he's no longer gearing up on a foldable chair in the middle of the Oilers Dressing Room. He's joining the team with a sense of comfort in the room and with expectations to simply deliver his puck-hounding style of play. 

"We want him to be a solid player," Tippett continued. "Come up here and play to his strengths. His strengths are tenacity and getting around the puck. 

"He's not a big guy but he plays hard and he's got the skill to make plays... That's what we'll give him an opportunity to do."

A full season of playing professional hockey, Yamamoto believes, will be crucial this time around with the big club.

"I've been here before and it's nothing new," he said. "I think just being more comfortable is going to be huge this time."

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