Is Kailer Yamamoto too small and too susceptible to big hits to be effective long-term for the Edmonton Oilers? It’s a valid question that comes following a 6-4 victory where the Oilers defeated the Seattle Kraken and Yamamoto scored but got hit repeatedly and bumped around like a pinball in a machine full of quarters. It’s a regular narrative for the forward who is small, but unafraid and goes into the hard areas on a repeated basis. Fans love him for it, but there’s a growing concern about his ability to withstand that kind of punishment.
Should There Be Serious Concern Over Yamamoto’s Health?
Just this weekend, one scribe suggested the concern over Yamamoto’s health is at a point where he’s not necessarily cheering for the player to be more productive, but he’s found himself cheering for Yamamoto just to be healthy. Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal wrote the following:
You see, Yamamoto has not been good for a while, now. And it has gotten to the point where I am genuinely worried about him. We are all aware of the “upper body” injuries Yamamoto has suffered. When I see any player endure those and when they return they simply do not look like themselves, I get concerned that the injury is still with him. That they are no longer the same player they once were. And Yamamoto has not looked like himself, with just 9 goals and 18 points while being limited to only 46 games this season. That is why I am worried. I do not want that for this young man. Forget on a hockey level, but on a human level.
source – ‘The human side of unlocking Edmonton Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto: 9 Things’ – Kurt Leavins – Edmonton Journal – 03/19.2023
I have to admit, I often catch myself thinking some of the same things Leavins describes. I see Yamamoto take a big hit and I wonder if he’s going to get up. I see him make a face as if to suggest he narrowly escaped being run over by a freight train (which a lot of players are to him) and I wonder if the next one will be the one that doesn’t miss him. It’s a terrible feeling, especially when you know he’s not ever going to change his game — which you don’t want because that’s one of the things that makes him unique.
The NHL is a league where smaller players can excel. But, most smaller players don’t play that in-your-face style Yamamoto does.