A Chief Turned Eventual Kraken
Spokane native and former Chiefs forward for four seasons in the Western Hockey League Kailer Yamamoto is coming home to Washington and he couldn’t be more excited.
Well, he actually trains in his hometown during the summers, but the concept of playing for an NHL team in his home state is almost beyond belief.
“I grew up playing in Spokane and I played on a travel team actually in Seattle when I was (age) 8 to 11 and I ended up buying Seattle Metropolitan (1917 Stanley Cup champions) gear,” Yamamoto recalled on Thursday afternoon. “I think somebody sent it to me, but I always wished that they (Seattle) would get a team, and then they got one, and now that I’m on the team, it’s definitely a dream come true.”
The Kraken are an ideal situation for he, his family, and friends. The undersized forward is coming off four full seasons plus parts of two more with the Edmonton Oilers, the team that selected him 22nd-overall in the 2017 NHL Draft.
“It’s a four hour drive, family can come,” Yamamoto said of signing with Seattle. “On the ice, last year, I played against them, and they really showed a lot, especially this last year making it to the 2nd round. I honestly thought they had a great chance of beating Dallas. I thought they were going to, but they didn’t. It’s a phenomenal team, they play like a team, the minutes are spread out evenly and I really like the coach and everything.”
Sounds like the 24-year-old is a Kraken fan turned Kraken.
His time was up in Edmonton. The 2nd and final year of his contract and his salary cap hit were moved in a trade to the Detroit Red Wings on June 29th. The next day the Red Wings bought out that contract, making Yamamoto an unrestricted free agent. That’s when his agent J.P. Barry of CAA started calling around.
“He asked me what teams I wanted to look for and my first thought was Seattle,” Yamamoto told us. “It meant being close to home and everything like that, and when we were going into the process of looking at teams he said ‘we may have to wait awhile, we’ll see’. Not even a day later he calls me and said they had made an offer, it was a good offer, and I said ‘absolutely I’d love to be playing for the Kraken’.”
The deal is for one year at $1.5-million. Call it an opportunity and a placeholder. The former 1st-round pick will be motivated not only by playing in his hometown, but by the change of scenery in general.
He was up and down the line-up in Edmonton during his time, maxing out with 20 goals and 21 assists two seasons ago while spending limited ice time with some dude named Connor McDavid.
Former Oilers teammate and current Kraken defenseman Adam Larsson was one of the first to text Yamamoto to welcome him aboard. The two played together during the forward’s first four years in Alberta.
Just 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, Yamamoto relies on being a hard worker and opportunistic.
“I really love how this team plays, they play tenacious,” he said. “They play a hard working, gritty game. I love to play that game. I think that’s my biggest goal this season is to stick to my plan and just play my game.”
He didn’t specify any statistical goals nor is he feeling any pressure playing in his home state.
“I’m just more relieved to be playing for my hometown team,” he said. “I played juniors in Spokane in my hometown, I thought I was going to feel pressure, but man it was a dream come true playing for my hometown and to be able to play for the Kraken in the NHL, it’s hard to describe the words.”
He’d say it again. A dream come true. He and the Kraken will try to make the absolute most of it.