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2017 NHL MOCK DRAFT: Maple Leafs tap USA Hockey again with Kailer Yamamoto

The Toronto Maple Leafs hold the 17th pick

Spokane Chiefs v Calgary Hitmen Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Welcome to the 2017 edition of the Hockey Wilderness mock draft. We’re doing things a little differently this time around. You’ll still be getting the same great draft profiles, but we’ve gone ahead and condensed the format to drive through all the picks in the first round in the 10 days leading up to the draft. In prior seasons we’ve brought you a pick each day up to the draft, but now we’re bringing 3 picks each day, culminating with the 31st pick right on draft day.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are even more provincial than Minnesota fans. If they’re not Canadian, then why bother? That changed when they drafted Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Forty goals and a nice 69 points later, that picked turned out well, didn’t it? With picks like Cale Makar, Juuso Valimaki, and Michael Rasumussen off the board, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a hard choice.

When scouts classify the 2017 draft as a “weak” draft, it’s not because these players aren’t talented. it’s because these players lack size, or have serious holes in their game. Toronto’s top-end prospects like William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen are all at, or will graduate to the NHL this coming season. Sure, a player pro for the first time like University of Minnesota Duluth stand-out Dominic Toninato will join former Michigan Wolverine Zach Hyman on the Marlies, and have some NHL promise to them. But the top end talent still needs to be built up.

For the NHL, the game is becoming more of a speed and skill game where small(ish) players like Martin St. Louis, who had to fight to earn every single bit of his career in the NHL because of his smaller stature, and now Johnny Gaudreau can thrive and go on to have successful careers. With that in mind, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the 17th pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, select Kailer Yamamoto, forward from the Spokane Chiefs.

Hello, Yamamoto!

Kailer Yamamoto is labeled as a high scoring skilled winger. So much so that according to Prospect-stats.com he was the highest scoring player in the WHL in the 17-18 year old range. Ranked number 17 by NHL’s Central Scouting Service this kid is electric with the puck. A Future Considerations scout said, “Yamamoto plays with the puck on a string, he’s extremely creative.” The kid has incredible puck skills and is smart to boot. However, Yamamoto isn’t just a one trick pony. The kid is a skilled puck distributor. He has .65 Goal per game, and a .52 primary assist per game mark as well. Meaning, if he’s not finishing he play, he’s making the play that eventually gets finished.

Kailer Yamamoto Career Stats

Season Team League GP G A TP PIM
Season Team League GP G A TP PIM
2013-2014 Los Angeles Jr. Kings U16 T1EHL U16 34 17 23 40 14
2014-2015 Spokane Chiefs WHL 68 23 34 57 50
Team Gold USA-S16 5 2 4 6 -
U.S. National U17 Team USDP 7 3 4 7 2
USA U17 WHC-17 6 3 3 6 2
USA U17 (all) International-Jr 4 0 6 6 2
2015-2016 Team Kelly USA-S17 5 2 3 5 2
Spokane Chiefs WHL 57 19 52 71 34
U.S. National U18 Team USDP 9 7 7 14 12
USA U18 Hlinka Memorial 4 4 3 7 14
USA U18 WJC-18 7 7 6 13 12
2016-2017 Spokane Chiefs WHL 65 42 57 99 46
Player statistics powered by www.eliteprospects.com

If you watch Minnesota Wild hockey, you notice a player like Jared Spurgeon. It’s been said that players like him [smaller ones] have to develop the hockey sense quickly or get destroyed. Yamamoto possesses that high-level hockey IQ where he just knows where to be, and how to find the puck on his stick.

The biggest knock on him as a player is indeed his size. He’s been measured at around 5’7” to 5’9” and roughly 160 pounds. That size could get you killed in high school hockey, yet, he finds a way to be successful in major junior hockey. But scouts clearly note his size, or rather lack thereof, and wonder if he is one big hit away from being off the ice.

However, he is a multifaceted player who answers questions about his size with a tenacious work ethic and great awareness to avoid being hemmed into a disadvantageous situation. Added mass will also make him more dangerous off the rush as his already quick and accurate shot could use added velocity when firing from farther out which will come from improved upper-body strength.

via Future Considerations

Kailer Yamamoto looks to have the skills to be a first round pick in this and even other drafts. And if he was a little bit taller (and if he was a baller and a girl who looked good he would call her) he could find himself in the top half of the first round rather than getting ranked inside the second half of the round.

How He’d Fit the Wild

Kailer has the tools that could make the Wild a better team in the future. His vision, his speed, and his scoring ability sounds a lot like Mikael Granlund, but with more scoring. Should Granlund’s nice 69 point season last year be just a fluke, or the outlier of his career in terms of numbers, Yamamoto seems like a guy that could replace him, should the Wild choose to eventually move on from 64.

Will the Wild draft him if they had this pick? That’s really tough to say. Had he fallen to them at their original 23rd overall pick that went to Arizona, I’m not sure they’d take him. They had a chance at Travis Konecny (Philadelphia) in 2015 when they selected Joel Eriksson Ek, but ultimately passed because of Konecny’s small size and past concussions. But in this draft where each player seems to have major flaws, or significant development needed, Yamamoto appears to have little development left in terms of skill and play, but instead into his body. Unfortunately, if that frame doesn’t get any bigger, it’ll be tough to make much change to his body.

How Could the Wild Acquire Him?

Right now the Wild are in a weird conundrum. As Michael Russo described on KFAN Radio on June 5th, the amount of teams the Wild would want to trade has been dwindled as that team must be in a position to trade and then be willing to protect that player. I’d think if the Wild wanted to send Marco Scandella to Toronto plus a pick, Scandella could compliment that young blue line of the Maple Leafs nicely as the young 27 year old “grizzled” (more like polished pretty boy) veteran and the Wild could get back into the first round at number 17.