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Oilers get lucky and get their man at 22

The Edmonton Oilers tried to move up to get Kailer Yamamoto, but as it turned out they'd get lucky and get their man at 22

by Chris Wescott / Head Writer

CHICAGO, IL - Peter Chiarelli was working the phones at the Oilers draft table Friday night.

As it closed in on the 22nd-overall pick, Edmonton explored avenues to move up. The board was falling nicely for the team, but there were no guarantees their real target would last.

Video: Oilers draft F Kailer Yamamoto No. 22

Kailer Yamamoto was the marked man Edmonton had their sights set on. The small - yet offensively explosive - Spokane Chiefs winger was a popular prospect in the range near the Oilers. He could have gone at any time.

"We were fortunate he was there when we picked," said Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli.

The club came into the night with a list of four players they thought would be in their range, but Yamamoto was worth giving up more assets to get if they could of. As it turns out, patience paid off.

The Oilers hockey ops boss was ecstatic to be the man with the opportunity to select the smallest player in NHL first-round history.

"It's a great distinction, a great honour," said Chiarelli. "Kailer's skill and grit is a real interesting package. He gets after it on the forecheck, he knocks guys off pucks, he is small but he's strong and he's got tremendous heart and skill and to me he really stood out for us, and especially for around where we picked."

At 5-foot-7 - and some change - and just shy of 150 pounds, Yamamoto isn't physically imposing. However, one look at his numbers this season and it's easy to see why he was so coveted.

Yamamoto finished his 2016-17 season with 42 goals and 99 points for his hometown team. His goal output was good for eighth in the WHL, while he finished sixth in overall scoring.

NHL Central Scouting ranked Yamamoto as their 17th North American skater. The scouting report on him is that he's a dynamic offensive player with "exceptional speed and quickness," which can easily pair with the set of talented centres Edmonton has on their roster.

The thought of playing with a familiar face in Leon Draisaitl already had an excited Yamamoto salivating.

Video: THE PANEL | Post NHL Draft Day 1

"I played against Draisaitl my first year in Spokane and he was unbelievable," said Yamamoto. "I've never seen a guy chuck backhand sauce, cross-ice and right on the tape for a goal. I'm really looking forward to it and going to that skilled team is definitely going to benefit my game. It's going to be awesome."

Size is not a worry for the Oilers GM, who has spent the last few seasons gathering size up front. And besides, Yamamoto doesn't play a 5-foot-7 game.

"Although he is small, he's not a small-skill guy," said Chiarelli. "He plays big. We saw him a lot, and he didn't disappoint. He had some great games, we had some great viewings and I'm really happy with this pick."

Yamamoto is very pleased as well. Grinning from ear-to-ear, the newest Oiler expressed pure happiness at his future home.

"I was really hoping to go to the Oilers, actually," he said.

That feeling was mutual.

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