EDMONTON, AB - Bakersfield Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft doesn't need a magnifying glass to point out the finer details in Kailer Yamamoto's game that have made him successful in his recent call-up with the Edmonton Oilers.
They've been there all season in the AHL.
"It's easy for me to say that now, but I would say that Yamo has not only been our best forward, but our best player through the first part of our regular season here in Bakersfield," Woodcroft said in an interview on Monday with 630 CHED Oilers Now Host Bob Stauffer.
The 5-foot-8 winger has posted two goals and an assist in four games for the Oilers since being recalled from the AHL on December 29, providing a different dimension and balance to the club's top-six on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The attention paid by Yamamoto during the season to make '19-20 a formative year in his career has been just as important as the work put in during the off-season towards recovery and growth.
The 21-year-old underwent wrist surgery back in May and missed the entirety of last season's playoff run to the Pacific Division Final for the Condors, returning in time for the onset of Training Camp and being named an AHL All-Star back on Friday for his exploits of 16 points (8G, 8A) in 23 contests this campaign.
"He put in a lot of work in the summertime not only to rehab his injury he had surgery on, but he also put a lot of work in to make sure he had the kind of year that he wanted to have," Woodcroft said. "That didn't just take the form of working on his skills or making improvements in the weight room, it took the form of attacking everyday with an energy and enthusiasm to be the best pro he can be."
"I've been quite impressed with him right off the bat. I think his success in the AHL and early success on this recent call-up is a full credit to him and the work he's put in."
The Oilers mulled over potential call-ups the weekend of back-to-back home and away games on January 28-29, with Head Coach Dave Tippett mentioning the decision would come after a Saturday clash with the Stockton Heat.
It was Yamamoto who'd eventually get the first call after posting a goal, an assist, and being named the first star in a 4-3 win. But the night's second star in Tyler Benson, who posted two helpers and leads the Condors in scoring this season, is a name that remains hot on the minds of Oilers management and fans.
Benson continuing his output as the Condors leading scorer from last season and Bakersfield's 4-0-1 record since the Christmas break have a direct correlation for Woodcroft, who sees Benson as a player whose quickness is shown in his ability to think the game and execute plays.
"He's different than Yamamoto. They represent different dimensions," the Condors bench boss said. "I think he's a player that when you're around him every day, you appreciate what he brings to the table. Where Tyler is fastest is between the ears. He works to get into position, he finds a way to think the game a step or two ahead, and that's what makes him a fast player."
With all that's been said about Benson's success and potential in an Oilers uniform for years to come, not enough has been made of his enthusiasm for his teammates as they get the call to the NHL.
Good things happen to those who wait with a smile on their face.
"The one thing I think I don't talk about and certainly aren't around our team talk about enough him is what a great teammate he is," Woodcroft said. "When other people have been called up over the last year-and-a-half, he doesn't worry about it, he doesn't fret about it, he just goes about his daily business."
"When his roommate got called up, there was no one happier for Yamo than Benson."