Kailer Yamamoto showcases skill in CHL/NHL prospects game
Another accomplishment was added to Kailer Yamamoto’s hockey resume this week
Yamamoto returned to Chiefs practice on Wednesday from Quebec City, where he played in the CHL/NHL top prospects game on Monday, recording one goal and one assist while playing on Team Orr’s top forward line.
The stellar performance didn’t surprise anyone around the Chiefs organization, though.
“He’s been doing it since he was 16-years-old,” Spokane head coach Don Nachbaur said. “It doesn’t surprise me that he had a good game.”
The CHL/NHL top prospects event invites the best 40 professional prospects for a combine-style skills combination and an All-Star game.
Yamamoto played on Team Orr in the showcase, coached by Hall of Fame defenseman Bobby Orr. The opposing team was coached by Don Cherry, current NHL TV commentator and former coach and player.
“It was unbelievable playing with the best players in the CHL and getting the experience of that many people there and that many scouts,” Yamamoto said. “The players are unbelievable there. I’m just glad I could be apart of it.”
Yamamoto’s linemates Nico Hischier – projected to be the second-overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft – and Nikita Popugayev (Prince George) added to the experience.
Yamamoto was the beneficiary of a nifty pass off the wall from Hischier, which he put away top shelf for his lone goal of the night.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind player,” Yamamoto said of Hischier.
Yamamoto has been on numerous Team USA squads, most recently at the 2016 IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He scored 13 points in seven games to help the U.S. win a bronze medal.
“I think that there is a real comfort level playing with good players for him,” Nachbaur said.
Yamamoto also showed his skating skills in the combine portion on Sunday. He came in first among all prospects in weave agility with the puck and pro-agility right in the off-the-ice tests. He finished in the top three in three other categories.
He’s said he owes a lot of his success in the drills to Berkley Villard, a former professional figure skater and hockey skating coach in the area.
“She’s really helped me out with a lot of my edges growing up,” Yamamoto said. “That helped me out a lot.”
Now Yamamoto returns to a Spokane Chiefs squad in dire straights. The Chiefs are inching out of the playoff picture after three consecutive losses. The most recent one was an 8-3 drubbing to Tri-City on Saturday with Yamamoto out of the lineup.
Yamamoto remains optimistic of the rest of the Chiefs’ season.
“We’ve been battling all season for a playoff spot,” Yamamoto said, “but these last 20 games, we’re going to have a good push and it’s going to work out for us.”
The Chiefs are currently nine points behind Portland for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.