Kris Baker is once again counting down his list of top prospects available in the NHL Draft for Sabres.com. The first round of the 2017 NHL Draft will take place on June 23 in Chicago.
Team: Spokane (WHL)
A shifty playmaker and sniper who controls the puck like it's on a Yo-Yo, the Spokane, Wash. native and Los Angeles Jr. Kings product is one of the more exciting forwards to watch in the class with his speed and sizzle.
Kailer Yamamoto is best classified as elusive, and despite also being deemed "small," he plays without fear when hitting the high-traffic areas. He'll enter the corners like a ball of fire, and spin out of trouble when defenders attempt to take away his space.
With natural hand-to-eye coordination, he seems to have put extra emphasis on maintaining control of the puck in small areas.
If Yamamoto gets knocked down, he quickly gets back to his feet and re-enters the fray undeterred.
Yamamoto served notice that he was a big-time talent well in advance of his draft year when he and fellow 2017 eligible forward Casey Mittelstadt were dominant offensive figures at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Yamamoto buzzed all over the ice in the tournament, piling up seven goals and 13 points in seven games despite being one of the youngest players on the roster.
That performance was a nice springboard into 2016-17 as Yamamoto collected 42 goals and 99 points in 65 games for a Chiefs squad that failed to make the WHL playoffs.
Yamamoto's draft position will no doubt be impacted by how teams value talent versus size. Yes, Yamamoto is just 5-foot-7 and barely 160 pounds, and yes he still needs to add more velocity to his shot and become more an impactful player in the defensive zone, but he plays with the confidence and determined battle skills befitting a player that is much larger, much like another former Spokane native that played with the hometown Chiefs, Tyler Johnson, with perhaps similar NHL upside.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects).
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