NHL Prospect Notebook: Yamamoto expected to stick with Oilers
The NHL is a lot of hockey to follow and there's just not enough time to keep up with your favorite team and its prospects, who are often scattered across North America, and in some cases, the world. Fortunately, we've got you covered.
All season long, we'll bring you a prospect notebook to keep you up-to-date with both drafted players and those vying for the top spots in the 2019 NHL Draft. Here's how the season is kicking off.
In the Show
The youth takeover is in full effect. Veterans are being cut in training camp or waived to be sent to the minors and fresh blood is taking their place. More prospects than in years past have the opportunity to make their club's opening-night roster and make an impression on the big stage.
Kailer Yamamoto had a nine-game tryout with the Oilers last season before returning to the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, but this year it seems he might stick in Edmonton. His nine preseason points - including six goals - tied him with Nashville Predators star Filip Forsberg for third overall, behind only teammates Connor McDavid and Ty Rattie.
Under the direction of new head coach Bill Peters, the Calgary Flames are engaging in a youth movement of sorts. After six points - four goals - in the preseason, rookie forward Dillon Dube has likely done enough to make the team, and chances are high that defenseman Juuso Valimaki will join him.
Both Brady Tkachuk and Alex Formenton have made the Ottawa Senators' opening-night roster. We may not know what the Senators are going to be this season, but here's a not-so-bold prediction: Tkachuk (and his big mouth and gritty play) will lead the team in penalty minutes, while also contributing on the score sheet.
Elias Pettersson was practically the only bright light in the abyss that was the Vancouver Canucks' preseason, and it appears he's on the fast track to adapting to the NHL game. You almost hate to waste him on the Canucks, who are about to embark on a "Lose For Hughes" campaign to bring 2018 seventh overall pick Quinn Hughes' brother, Jack, to Vancouver.
But then, with moves like these, it'll be hard to keep him down:
One interesting surprise: with injuries freeing up roster spots, it looks as though Jaret Anderson-Dolan might make the Los Angeles Kings' opening-night roster after making a great impression in the preseason. That's what many envisioned for Gabriel Vilardi before his back issues flared up again. Anderson-Dolan will likely get the typical nine-game look, and what happens after that may not only depend on how he plays, but also how quickly the other Kings players are able to return.
In the Minors
A significant number of top prospects get the chance to develop against a higher level of competition in the AHL this season, rather than in the junior leagues where they would likely dominate the game and learn very little.
The Class of 2019
Potential 2019 first-rounder Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL) has started the season off with a bang, racking up 10 points, including a league-best six goals, through his first four games.
Out west, Kirby Dach of the Saskatoon Blades was named CHL Player of the Week for the first week of the regular season. Dach had seven points, including three goals, in the Blades' first two games of the year. One of those games was an 8-0 blowout of the Swift Current Broncos in which Dach had five points. Beyond the impressive skill set, Dach's high hockey IQ allows him to think and play the game at a fast pace, something that will greatly benefit him in the NHL.
Over at the U.S. National Team Development Program, top gun Jack Hughes has five points in three games. Teammate Matthew Boldy has six, including four goals. Keep your eye on Boldy this season. He's going to make the team that drafts him in June very happy.
Around the CHL
In his first game back with the Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) since being sent back by the Florida Panthers, forward Owen Tippett had a hat trick and finished with four points. Fellow Panthers prospect in the OHL, Serron Noel of the Oshawa Generals, also had a hat trick with one coming on the penalty kill.
While Chicago Blackhawks defensive prospect Adam Boqvist made a strong argument for himself in the preseason, he was returned to the London Knights of the OHL. He's already making quite an impression:
In Other News ...
- Sunday night, the Prince Albert Raiders scored three goals in 20 seconds against the Saskatoon Blades. Ouch.
- NCAA hockey has yet to begin, but the Avalanche had two prospects on the preseason All Hockey East Team (chosen by the Hockey East Writers and Broadcasters Association): Shane Bowers and Cale Makar.
- Top 2020 prospect Alexis Lafreniere has seven points in four games for Rimouski of the QMJHL. Lafreniere is already drawing comparisons to Sidney Crosby, which are no doubt fueled by the fact he plays for Crosby's former junior team.
Hannah Stuart keeps a close eye on both drafted and draft-eligible prospects and can usually be found trying to learn more about hockey analytics. She has previously written for FanRag Sports, The Hockey Writers, and Hooked On Hockey Magazine, and can also be found at High Heels and High Sticks. Find her on Twitter at @HockeyWthHannah.