Kailer Yamamoto sat down with the media over a virtual Zoom news conference on Thursday, already thinking of who’s coming to watch him play.
“Having my parents come out, my grandparents come out – I think that's what's most special,” said Yamamoto.
Consider it the fruits of a new opportunity, in his home state. The longtime Spokane resident and former four-year Chiefs forward out of the WHL agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract on Sunday, a low risk and team friendly deal that makes minimal impact on the salary cap, while providing a new landing spot after an injury riddled season that was quickly met with a warm reception, even by teammates he reunites with.
Take Adam Larsson for example.
“He was the first person who texted me and said, man, you're going to love it here, congrats on signing here and everything like that,” said Yamamoto. “He told me where all the guys (live), a lot of good restaurants and everything like that. So, I’m super excited that he reached out.”
He fit into a Seattle Metropolitans jersey while he was playing travel hockey between age 8-11, where he dreamed of the NHL fitting into Seattle. With that fit becoming reality, present day suggests where he fits into the lineup is an obvious fit by default, where the Kraken have lost three forwards who – at some point – have filled roles on the fourth line in Ryan Donato to Chicago, Daniel Sprong to Detroit, and Morgan Geekie to Boston.
Yamamoto brings a diminutive stature at five-foot-seven, but an unquenchable appetite for pace and a physical game. Those traits carry a double-edged sword. Yamamoto is fresh off a 20-goal campaign in the hardest league in the world to play in but fell victim to neck injuries last season that depleted his production. He finished with just ten goals and 25 points in 58 games.
It's clear where he sees his fit, while preparing for the season with fellow Chiefs alumnus Derek Ryan.
“There's a lot of good players, but you know, I'm definitely going to try to fight for a top nine spot,” Yamamoto told 93.3 KJR-FM. “But at the end of the day, I'm a part of this organization and I'm going to do everything I can to help our team win now.”
Yamamoto has 244 games in the NHL, all with Edmonton, while logging 118 points and 50 goals.