Kailer Yamamoto’s Oilers plug saved his season with a solid second half, now contract talks loom

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2021-22 Edmonton Oilers under review
Killer Yamamoto

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It’s now been 5 years since the Edmonton Oilers drafted the right wing Killer Yamamoto In the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft, a clear picture of the player emerges.

The Oilers took a big risk on their draft day. Weighing in at 153 pounds, Yamamoto is the Lightest first round draft Ever to play later in the league, but he plays in the league he has.

It took Yamamoto about 2½ of those five years to make a huge splash, even as he picked up 9 cups of coffee, then 17 NHL games in his first two seasons after the draft. Both times it was deemed “not quite ready” and shipped, returning to a big novice the first of those years, then to AHL in the second.

In the third year, the organization finally got things in order, and Yamamoto began the season at the Jay Woodcroft Club in Bakersfield. Right after the Christmas holidays he was summoned and immediately found alchemy on a high-strength line with Leon Drystel And the Ryan Nugent Hopkins. He’s been a regular player ever since, a good support player at a good price.

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The petite-sized winger seems to have found his offensive form, scoring an average of one point every two games. That’s exactly over the course of his career (186 GP, 93 points); That’s almost in 2021-22, when he scored 41 points in 81 games; Exactly back in the playoffs, when he made 7 more games in 14 competitions before leaving the Colorado Series midway through Game 2 with Gabriel Landskog suffering a concussion.

Focusing here on the regular season results, more than 80% of those points came in 5v5, with Yamamoto becoming a staple on our Top 6 Oilers list.

Yamamoto played 1,175 minutes in 5v5, which is 20 hours shy. This included 5-10 hours with All One of the top 5 strikers in the club, and only 5 hours sum with all the others. It makes sense that he hardly ever played with the other right wingers, but among the other forwards he had 89 minutes with Ryan McLeod80 inches Warren VogelKeep track of the amounts with the rest.

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Among the five main line buddies, the points per 60 column shows that he was the most productive by far Conor McDavid And the Evander King. In 193 minutes together as a trio, they scored 17 goals against 9. Yamamoto was definitely the third wheel, but his tireless pursuit and skills in tight quarters served him well.

How stubborn? On his recent post featuring a teammate and a fellow RFA Jesse PoliogarviMy colleague, David Staples, has published the results of our work here at hockey cult Select “Difficult plays in A-grade shots”. Besides games of skill such as passing and shooting, we evaluate players’ contributions to the dangerous attack via ancient elbow grease. Many of these involve smashing into the net, whether it’s goalkeeper screens, deflectors, stacked shots, or rough charges at the front of the net. We also evaluate the battles won which often result in the initial takeover or keeping the play alive. KY isn’t quite in JP’s league in these areas, but it’s not exactly a shrinking violet either. Especially impressive considering that he is lighter A player in the entire NHL.

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The circumstances tell us that my time with Kane was largely limited to the second half of the season. That explains some, but not all, of Yamamoto’s improved performance after his old AHL coach Jay Woodcroft took a seat on February 10. In fact, player performance has taken a huge leap after the training change, by whatever measure one chooses to apply.

As with most Oilers for the full season, Yamamoto played more games under Tippett than Woodcroft, so after the mandatory GP streak we’ll pretty much use a per-game or per-60 metric to derive the differences, which was important.

Starting with publication, the winger saw his icy time bump at just over 1 minute per match which included a greater powerplay and a slight increase over other units. But a slight increase in each category within Woodcroft, a pattern that will repeat pretty much across the board.

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Significant rises across the board in the production categories, with a 45% increase in 5v5 scoring rates that was the main takeaway. The total count for each game nearly doubled, with this extra time in powerplay playing a role. 5 of 6 KY points came after March 1, with the last 3 reaching a second unit with McLeod which only got more dangerous as the season progressed.

Yamamoto’s shot rates took a good leap under Woodcroft, and so did his already impressive shooting percentage, which averaged 17.5% over the full season. His 15.2% career run may be his most unexpected stat; In fact, that number stands at 17.2% since he became a full-time player at the turn of the decade. He doesn’t have a particularly powerful shot, nor is he a shooter, but he is adept at cleaning trash around blue paint and scores a large percentage of his goals from close range.

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The bottom four classes attempt to capture some of the competitive, albeit imperfect, aspects of the game: hitting, blocking, and taking and pulling penalties. They mostly lead in the second half, although the only area that showed a drop was in the penalty shootout, which is usually a strength for this player. Who knows, whether it’s the wisdom of handling the lines or just their whistles as they prepare for the play-off games.

Finally, we move on to the gameplay streaming metrics at 5v5. In 6 of the 6 selected categories – shot attempts, shots on target, scoring chances, high risk chances, predicted goals, and finally the very important real goals – we see that with Yamamoto on the ice, the Oilers were floundering well below the break-even point. During Dave Tippett’s part of the season, well above the 50% mark in all categories under Jay Woodcroft. (We are showing divisions instead of full season numbers, which can be found in bold at source. It’s pretty average frankly, shading just under 50% in all categories provides high-risk opportunities.)

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In fact, with the sole exception of the penalty shootout, Yamamoto’s results took a tough turn north in the Woodcroft portion of the season. Up, up, up in every category on display from deployment to individual production to team results on ice. Of course the team as a whole has been greatly improved and, as the old saying goes, the rising tide floats on all boats.

Woodcroft deserves his share of the credit, as do Kane and McDavid who pressed well with the pint-sized wing. But when applauding for the strong finish, let’s reserve the lion’s share of it for Kailer Yamamoto himself.

I look ahead

Having exited an entry-level contract last summer, Yamamoto signed a cheap one-year extension worth $1.175 million and generated value with a 20-goal season. Not only did he earn a premium, but he also got arbitration rights that he didn’t have a year ago.

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The obvious play is holding a bridge. Despite being a professional for 4 years, he has another 4 years before he reaches unrestricted status in 2026. The two-year extension appears to be a clear middle ground for both sides. The trick is to find a suitable price point that does not overestimate the value of the player, who has received a very strong boost from his teammates in particular. Ken Holland’s focus should be on properly assessing the podium season as a whole, without falling prey to freshness bias by overestimating a strong second half.

However, Kailer Yamamoto is the kind of player Oilers need, a type of meat and potato that grows indoors and develops over time into positive NHLer results. He was a first-round pick but was a late 22nd, and his AHL percentage speaks volumes for his arrival via the road. His past relationships with Jay Woodcroft over parts of 3 different seasons in 2 different leagues seem to have immediately paid off in the new system, given how he raised his profile after the coaching change. Yamamoto is now one of the strongest players in the NHLer from over 200 games including the playoffs, even as he continues into the “value contract” phase of his career. At least, that’s the theory.

To you, Ken Holland.

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