The 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft has finished his fourth year in Spokane. Depending on how training camp goes, he could be headed for a full season in Bakersfield. He could spend a couple of weeks on the big roster, or he could be a full time player for the Oilers in 2018-19.
It’s likely best for the not-yet 20 years of age Yamamoto to spend an entire season in Bakersfield, but the right wing position is pretty weak with no clear-cut set positions. You’ve been around for a minute, let’s quickly review the RW candidates.
Signed on the first day of free-agent frenzy in 2017, Rattie spent fourteen games on the big club last year and scored nine points. Much of his short stint was spent on the top line with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Rattie’s fourteen game tryout was in the final quarter of the season, long after the Oilers had been eliminated from realistic playoff contention. Unless someone has a monster camp, Rattie is likely your odds-on favourite to hitch his wagon to the top RW spot. You’re probably asking yourself why a 25 year old with less than 50 NHL games is the likely placeholder for the top line alongside Connor McDavid.
Five months older than Yamamoto, the fourth overall pick from the 2016 NHL Draft has finished his second year of pro hockey. At 93 career games, Puljujarvi has 28 points (13-15-28). The time is now to put Puljujarvi into the top six, as he spent much of last year on a third line with Milan Lucic and Ryan Strome.
A fourth round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Rieder rejoins the team that drafted him seven years ago when he signed a one year deal on July 1st. Rieder can play all three forward positions, he’s got 117 total points in 312 NHL games with Arizona / Los Angeles. If Rieder starts the year on 2LW, this opens the door for Kailer Yamamoto to immediately jump in the lineup.
Kassian is your 4RW for the next two seasons. In three seasons with the Oilers, Kassian has scored 51 points (17-34-51).
So, where does that put Yamamoto? On a prospect rich team, in the AHL for at least a year. On the 2018-19 Edmonton Oilers? Closer than you might think.
If the Oilers fill their right wings based on last season’s performances, you’ve got Tobias Rieder leading the pack with a whopping 25 points. Puljujarvi would be second with 20, while Rattie and Kassian would round out the bottom six.
That’s just not good enough.
The club has struggled mightily on the right side since moving Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, and they’ll continue to struggle there unless Ty Rattie finds 50 points with a full season of McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins. I don’t see the club putting Jesse Puljujarvi on the top line in October, and there might be a 5% chance that Tobias Rieder sees that slot.
READY FOR FLIGHT?
I’ve got reservations about putting Yamamoto in the top six so quickly. He’ll be just 20 years old at the end of September, his NHL experience is a 9 game tryout, and he really could use a season at the AHL level, The Oilers aren’t in an enviable position on the right side right now, and sticking Yamamoto on the top line immediately might be the best chance they’ve got to generate some scoring on the right side.
It’s not where the club should be, but it’s where they are.