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WHL Alumni of the Week: Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane Chiefs

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A total of 104 players were selected ahead of Kailer Yamamoto at the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Of those 104 players only five have more points than him in the NHL and he leads all players from his Bantam Draft in points per game.

Breaking into the Western Hockey League with his hometown Spokane Chiefs in 2014, Yamamoto immediately established himself as a dangerous offensive threat, outpacing players like Nolan Patrick and Sam Steel by scoring 23 goals adding 34 assists for 57 points. His early outburst earned him a spot on Team USA for the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge where he scored three goals as well as three assists for six points in six games, helping Team USA win a silver medal.

In his second season in the WHL, he took over as the main offensive threat for the Chiefs, leading the Club in scoring with 19 goals and 52 assists for 71 points. Yamamoto’s continued success once again earned him a spot on Team USA for the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championships being held in Grand Forks, N.D. At the U18 Championships he scored seven goals, chipped in six assists, giving him 13 points in the tournament, which placed him third overall in tournament scoring. After losing to the eventual gold-medal winning Team Finland, Yamamoto and Team USA thumped Team Canada 10-3 and took home the bronze medal.

Heading into his third season and his NHL Draft year Yamamoto’s already potent offensive talent exploded for 42 goals and 57 assists, totaling 99 points in just 65 games. His remarkable season not only earned him a spot on the Western Conference Second All-Star team but was good enough to see him get selected 22nd overall by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2017 NHL Draft.

With the draft in his rearview mirror, Yamamoto headed to his first NHL training camp and his first opportunity to break into the NHL. To the surprise of many Yamamoto made the Oilers out of training camp and played in nine games recording three assists before being sent back to Spokane.

After not being selected to Team USA’s World Junior Team the previous year, Yamamoto was selected to Team USA for the 2018 World Junior Championship. At the tournament, which was hosted in Buffalo, N.Y., Yamamoto tallied two goals and two assists for four points in seven games and helped Team USA win a bronze medal after a heartbreaking 4-2 loss to Team Sweden in the semifinal.

Once he was back with the Chiefs, he picked up right where he left off scoring 21 goals and 43 assists in 40 games. This was also his first season under new head coach Dan Lambert, who guided the Chiefs to their best season in Yamamoto’s career, compiling a record of 41-25-0-6, earning them the fourth-best record in the Western Conference. However, in the playoffs, the Chief first-round opponent was the 44-win Portland Winterhawks who knocked off the Chiefs in seven games of an incredibly tight series that saw Portland win 3-1 in the penultimate game.

The Game 7 loss would be Yamamoto’s last in the WHL. He finished his career with 230 games played, 105 goals, 186 assists for 291 points; a 1.27 points-per-game average.

Although his professional career did not get off to the start he wanted, Yamamoto found his groove on a line with former Western Leaguer, Leon Draisaitl and Yamamoto tallied 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 27 games with the Oilers this season. With the NHL planning on resuming play soon, Yamamoto is well on his way to establishing himself as the offensive threat he was in the WHL.

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