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The 2020 Copper & Blue Top 25 Under 25: #2 Kailer Yamamoto

Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

We’re nearly at the top of our T25U25 list, and, I bet you can already guess who’s going to be number one. Even if you can’t get it on the first guess, I’m sure that if I gave you three guesses and a small hint, you would definitely get it right.

But, this isn’t the article for number one, this is the article for number two, and this year’s number two is Kailer Yamamoto.

Here’s how we voted:

I voted for Yamamoto at second, and, frankly, it wasn’t all that close for me.

I can see the reasoning behind picking Bear over him, as Bear may have been the Oilers’ best defenceman for long stretches of last season.

I can also see the reasoning behind having Bouchard at two. Bouchard, after all, is still only twenty, and may be the best defence prospect the Oilers have had in a generation.

But, for me, Yamamoto was an easy second pick, mainly because he was fucking incredible last year.

He had 26 points in 27 games, which is, of course, fantastic, but if you really dig into the numbers, you’ll see that his season was much more incredible than nearly a point-per-game gives him credit for.

Yamamoto finished 3rd on the Oilers in points-per-game, behind only Leon Draisaitl’s Art Ross winning 1.55 points per game (best in the league in a per game basis, as well), and Connor Mcdavid’s career high 1.52 points-per-game.

But here’s the crazy part:

Yamamoto hardly benefitted at all from the Oilers’ league-best powerplay unit. He hardly played with the man advantage, and recorded only two goals and zero assists in that situation.

At 5 on 5, Yamamoto actually led the Oilers in per-game scoring. In fact, if we strip away secondary assists, and focus only on primary points scored at 5 on 5 (the hardest points to record), Yamamoto was one of the best players in the entire league.

His 0.67 primary 5-on-5 points for game were tied for the most in the league*, with Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins. And his 2.58 primary 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes was second in the entire league*, behind only Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.

* among players who appeared in at least 10 games.

I’m not suggesting that Yamamoto is a shoe-in to be among the league’s best on even strength production every year. He was on an unbelievable heater for a third of a season, and is likely in for a little regression to the mean this season, but still. The guy was fantastic last year. Anyone capable of a 27 game stretch like that is a pretty damn good player.

Yamamoto’s amateur and minor pro resume showed that he could put the puck in the net, so we can’t look at last year’s production as a total fluke.

In his last two seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, Yamamoto scored 63 goals and 163 points in 105 games.

He followed that up with 18 goals and 34 points over 50 games in his first two stint in Bakersfield. Which is good, but not exactly the type of production that one would expect from a player who was about to average nearly a point-per-game in the world’s best league.

Whether Yamamoto carries over last year’s spectacular performance, or regresses to merely a good top six winger, we can be sure that he is, at the very least, a hell of a hockey player. The type of player who could play for any team in the league, without question.

What more can you ask for from a young player in your organization, right?

Well, wait until you read about the guy at number one on our list.