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Get to know Kailer Yamamoto

With the 22nd-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, the Oilers selected Spokane Chiefs forward Kailer Yamamoto

by Paul Gazzola /

Both the Oilers organization and Oil Country got acquainted with Kailer Yamamoto this past Friday - Edmonton's 2017 first-round selection taken 22nd-overall in Chicago.

Standing a hair under 5-foot-8 and 148-pounds, the Spokane product became the shortest and lightest player taken in Round 1 of the NHL Draft. Yamamoto wasn't short of excitement after becoming an Oiler, however, navigating through the Draft's proceedings with the delight of a happy-go-lucky 18-year-old.

Video: DRAFT | Yamamoto Behind the Scenes

"Words can't describe the feeling that I have right now," said Yamamoto. "It's an unbelievable feeling and I'm really, really excited to be an Oiler."

Yamamoto's scale has long been a detractor by many prognosticators but those facets alone didn't stop Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli from trying to trade up in order to assure he would welcome the diminutive forward to the franchise.

"We were fortunate he was there when we picked," said Chiarelli of the winger who exploded in the 2016-17 campaign with 42 goals and 99 points playing for his hometown team.

Yamamoto displayed his personality the moment he became a member of the Oilers organization. With a smile painted on his face and ample compliments for the club, it was evident that the newest Oiler was bubbling with energy - something he's also known on the ice for.

There are a few influences Yamamoto credits for some of his success on the ice. Among them is Debbie Johnson, mother of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson. The Johnson family also hails from Spokane, and Debbie is a skating instructor. Since both Yamamoto and Johnson don't have much size, Debbie leveraged their ability by harnessing their skating.

Yamamoto's shifty hands, however, are a byproduct of skating and working out with Tyler since a young age. 

"His mom (Tyler Johnson's) was my first power skating coach when I was about two years old," Yamamoto said about Tyler soon after being drafted. "He's a tremendous guy, a tremendous athlete and one of my biggest role models in life."

With the requisite skills needed to become a National Hockey League player improved upon by the help of the Johnson family, Yamamoto credits Spokane Chiefs Head Coach Don Nachbaur with instilling structure in his game.

"He did a phenomenal job with me," Yamamoto said. "I came in (to Spokane), never really had structure in my game and he definitely cracked the whip on me a little bit… got me to play a more system game, more structured game. 

"I give a lot of credit to him, I don't think I'd be here without him."

And of course, Yamamoto - who is of Japanese descent - couldn't refrain from mentioning his family as his most vital supporters. 

"Definitely my parents, ever since I was a little kid, they've helped me out," he said. "They've been there for me and supported me."

Kailer's older brother Keanu played the past three seasons with the Chiefs. Keanu is 21 years old and has also been a major influence in his little brother's life.

"I think he was the biggest role model on my team," said Yamamoto. "Just having him there… just being able to talk to him, it's been unbelievable."

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