There’s been an early payoff for the Edmonton Oilers’ Kailer Yamamoto in training camp.
In four periods of scrimmaging Friday and Saturday, Yamamoto scored three times. Two were on Mike Smith while the other was into an empty net.
It’s an encouraging sign for Yamamoto, who focused on improving his shot over the summer.
“I’m hoping I can do that in the regular season and showcase it there too,” said Yamamoto.
“That was one thing we talked about at the end of the year. I talked to him through the summer a little bit. He told me his dad built a shooting ramp for him in the backyard. He’s been shooting all summer,” said head coach Dave Tippett.
“I shot about 150 orange pucks a day, 150 black pucks — did that throughout the summer,” added Yamamoto.
Oilers centre Derek Ryan, like Yamamoto, is from Spokane. The two trained together.
“He told me he wanted to work on his shot early in the summer, even before I signed in Edmonton. He was working on the quick release and the accuracy. I think that’s been evident so far in training camp,” said Ryan.
Yamamoto, 22, lists 34-year-old Ryan as a huge influence on his career.
“He’s pretty much like my second dad. I work out with him. I skate with him. I look up to him a lot,” explained Yamamoto.
The two members of the Oilers Spokane Connection took very different paths to the NHL. Yamamoto was drafted in the first round in 2017. Ryan played for the Alberta Golden Bears after his WHL career ended. He then spent four seasons in Europe and one in the AHL before becoming a regular with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016.
“His route to the NHL is unbelievable,” said Yamamoto. “It just shows that if you work hard, anything is possible. I think that’s probably the biggest advice he’s given me.”
“It’s really hard to be a top-six guy in the NHL. There are a lot of guys who have the skill to be there, but there are only so many spots. I feel like guys struggle to find a role in the bottom six,” said Ryan. “I feel like I’ve done a good job of adapting my game, coming from Europe where I was a top-six guy. Now in the NHL, where I’m a bottom-six guy, I’ve found a way to be effective in face-offs and defensive zone responsibility and chipping in offensively.”
“He’s a really smart player,” said Tippett of Ryan. “He understands the game really well, understands the team dynamic. He understands his role on the team, what he can to make sure he’s contributing to the team. You just see his intelligence in the game.”
The Oilers play their first pre-season game Sunday night in Calgary. Catch the action on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 5:30 p.m. The game starts at 7 p.m.