Kailer Yamamoto and Jason Robertson have barely had time to take their skates off.
It’s been an endless hockey summer for the two high-scoring major junior forwards and other players chosen in the 2017 National Hockey League Draft in June.
Yamamoto, a right wing for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, headed to Alberta, Canada, for the Edmonton Oilersdevelopment camp days after the team selected him in the first round with the 22nd overall pickin the draft.
A long hockey season for Edmonton Oilers 2017 first-round draft pick Kailer Yamamoto included playing in a prospects game last September (Photo/Len Redkoles/USA Hockey).
The 18-year-old Spokane native stayed in Oil Country afterwards for additional training on and off the ice on his own time.
“No days off,” Yamamoto told me recently.
Ditto for Roberston, a left wing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs. The Michigan resident shipped off to Texas for the Dallas Stars’ development camp after the teamtookhim in the draft’s second round with the39th overall pick.
“It’s been a pretty busy summer,” he said.
And it’s about to get busier beginning Friday, and both players couldn’t be happier. They will be among 42 American players invited to participate in the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcaseat USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan.
This edition of the World Juniors will have an exciting wrinkle – an outdoor game between the U.S. and Canada on Dec. 29 at 71,608-seat New Era Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.
“It would mean so much to me” to make the U.S. squad, Yamamoto told me. “Any time you can put on the crest of your country, it means the world.”
Yamamoto has represented the United States four times, playing in Under-17 tournaments in 2014-15, the Under-18 World Junior Championship in 2015-16, and the Ivan Hlinka Under-18 Memorial Cup tournament in 2015-16.
Kingston Frontenacs forward Jason Robertson, a 2017 Dallas Stars second-round draft pick, hopes to play for the U.S. at 2018 IIHF World Juniors (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).
Robertson, 18, has never played for the U.S. in an international tournament. He’s hoping that he does well enough at the showcase in Plymouth to punch his ticket to Buffalo.
“That would be super-exciting,” he told me. “It’s a great tournament. It would be a huge honor to play for the U.S.A., I hope I do. It’s up to me to perform the best I can in camp.”
That’s the mantra Robertson and Yamamoto followed during their development camps earlier this month.
After getting a long look at his game at camp, the Stars’ coaching staff acknowledged that Robertson is the skilled goal-scorer they thought he was when they drafted him, the player said.
Of course, his team-leading 42 goals and 39 assists in 68 OHL regular season games and 5 goals and 13 assists in 11 playoff games were pretty good clues before the Stars made the pick.
But the 6-foot-2, 194-pound Robertson did leave Texas with a message from the Stars: Get stronger.
Forward Jason Robertson will be wearing another prospects jersey as he participates in USA Hockey’s 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase (Photo/Len Redkoles/USA Hockey).
“The Number One thing I can improve on is my strength overall,” said Robertson, whose mother was born in the Philippines. “They even expressed that the skating is not a really big issue. They believe that developing more as a man off the ice and in the gym – and putting that time off ice into my strength – will really help my career.”
The Oilers also would like to see the 5-foot-8, 140-pound Yamamoto add some more muscle to his frame.
Yamamoto’s height and weight haven’t hurt in the WHL, where he was sixth in the league and tops on the Chiefs in scoring last season with 42 goals and 57 assists in 65 games.
But if he’s going to someday survive the rigors of an 82-game NHL season and the physical abuse from bigger defenders, it’s going to require a bit more meat on the bones.
“Get bigger, stronger, definitely put on the extra pounds,” said Yamamoto, whose grandfather lived in a U.S. Japanese internment camp during World War II. “They (Oilers) said ‘Keep working, we’re really looking forward to seeing you up in camp. Make sure you’re prepared and ready to go.'”
“Ready to go” means in September, just a few weeks after the World Junior showcase. Yamamoto will head back to Western Canada to report to Oilers training camp. Robertson will go to Traverse City, Michigan, for the 2017 NHL Prospect Tournament.
That event will feature up-and-coming young players from the Stars, Detroit Red Wings, CarolinaHurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Columbus BlueJackets and St. Louis Blues.
“Most people would be tired and need rest,” Robertson said of his hectic summer of hockey. “But I love it. I love having something to do, especially if it’s related to hockey.”
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CHICAGO – Parker and Spencer Foo share more than a brotherly bond.
Chicago Blackhawks draftee Parker Foo.
Parker is a scoring machine who tallied 34 goals and 32 assists in 60 games last season for the BrooksBandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Big brother Spencer is also a sniper – NCAA Division I hockey’s fourth-leading scorer in 2016-17 with 26 goals and 36 assists in 38 games as a junior for Union College.
Both are coveted by National Hockey League teams. The Chicago Blackhawks chose Parker Foo, an 18-year-old center, in the fifth round with the 144th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft at Chicago’s United Center.
Meanwhile, Spencer, a 23-year-old right wing, has committed to playing for the CalgaryFlames, ending a bidding war among NHL teams from his hometown Edmonton Oilers to the Philadelphia Flyers for his college free agent services. Spencer’s signing will be formally announced on Saturday.
"Calgary presented itself with a great opportunity & (it's) also a team that's right on the verge of winning." pic.twitter.com/9ZiiVDg1Rs
As for Parker, he was elated by being tapped by the Blackhawks. He didn’t attend the draft, not wanting to get his expectations too high. He did visit the Windy City a few weeks ago to attend a pre-draft combine.
“It’s incredible (to be selected by the Blackhawks),” he told The Calgary Herald. “I was there a couple of weeks ago. It’s a top-notch facility. Everything is incredible there — mind-boggling really. Obviously, the Blackhawks are an unreal team — all the superstars, and the coach is unbelievable.”
Parker is coming off an incredible 2016-17 season. He was the Bandits’ second-leading goal-scorer and fifth on the team in overall scoring – the combination of goals and assists. He was AJHL’s fourth-leading goal scorer during the regular season.
Foo was second on the Bandits and fourth in the AJHL in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 10 assists in 13 games. In addition, he tallied 4 goals and 5 assists in five games to help the Bandits win the Western Canada Cup.
Parker won’t be playing for Chicago any time soon. He’s committed to play NCAA Division I hockey next season. Where? Union College, just like his high-scoring brother did.
Parker was one of five players of Asian heritage picked by NHL teams in the weekend draft.
The others were:
Nick Suzuki, forward, Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario HockeyLeague, by the Vegas Golden Knights, first round, 13th overall pick; Kailer Yamamoto, forward, Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, by the Oilers, first round, 22nd overall pick; Jason Robertson, forward, KingstonFrontenacs of the OHL, by the Dallas Stars, second round, 43rd overall pick; Tyler Inamoto, defense, USA Hockey National Development Team, fifth round, 133rd pick overall.
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“Hockey is a lot of courage and passion and a lot of integrity,” said Inamoto, a defenseman for the USA Hockey National Development Team. “The principles of the Samurai code is pretty applicable to hockey.”
Inamoto hopes to employ the code playing for the Florida Panthers, which took the 6-foot-2 defenseman in the fifth round with the 133rd overall pick in the 2017 NationalHockey League Draft in Chicago Saturday.
“I was just honored to be picked by the Florida Panthers and look forward to the opportunity to play for them some day,” said Inamoto, who grew up in the Chicago area.
However, Inamoto won’t be suiting up for the Panthers soon. He’ll start playing for the University of Wisconsin and head coach Tony Granato this fall. NHL Central Scouting ranked Inamoto as the 68th-best North American skater eligible for the draft.
Granato calls him a big, mean defenseman whom he expects to contribute to the Badgers almost immediately.
“He’ll be a physical impact player right away next year,” Granato said.
Inamoto is of Japanese descent and learned a lot about his heritage – including the Samurai code – from his grandfather, Fujio Inamoto, who was placed in a British Columbia internment camp during World War II. He passed away in 2014.
“He taught me a lot about hard work and perseverance, as well, because coming out of internment camp, he had to work hard to support the family since he lost all (his) land,” the younger Inamoto told The Chicago Tribune. “…And he persevered through all that. I learned a lot from him.”
They are lessons that he doesn’t take lightly. He hopes to make history by becoming one of the few players of Japanese heritage to reach the NHL.
“It’s a big deal – there aren’t too many Japanese hockey players out there,” said Inamoto, who was born in New Jersey but raised in suburban Chicago. “So if I can be an influence to some of those guys growing up and inspire them to play hockey, I definitely take that very seriously and I’ll do my best to be a good role model to them.”
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CHICAGO – Three players of color took center stage at the 2017 National Hockey LeagueDraft at Chicago’s United Center Friday night.
Two major junior hockey players of Asian heritage and a black French-Canadian player were chosen in the first round of the 31-team draft. And Ryan Reaves, a pugnacious veteran forward, was traded by the St. Louis Blues to the PittsburghPenguins, a move that capped the first day of the draft.
Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for Nick Suzuki, a forward for the OwenSound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League. He was taken with the 13th pick in the draft by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
Nick Suzuki of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack hopes to be Vegas-bound after being drafted in the first round by the Golden Knights (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images).
“It’s not every day you get picked by an expansion team,” Suzukisaid after he had his named called and donned the fledgling Golden Knights’ jersey. “I’m really happy about being picked by Vegas and I want to get there pretty quick and see the new building.”
Suzuki was ranked as the 10th-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. The 5-foot-10 native of London, Ontario, was Owen Sound’s second-leading scorer last season with 45 goals and 51 assists in 65 games.
His younger brother, forward Ryan Suzuki, was the first player chosen in the 2017 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection Draft in April, plucked by the Barrie Colts.
Nick Suzuki said he has no worries about joining a new NHL team that’s bound to have more losses than wins in its first few seasons.
“I don’t think I’m nervous,” he said. “I’m more excited to see what Vegas is like. I don’t know if there’s pressure. I kind of just take it as a new team and you have to show them that you’re a good player.”
Kailer Yamamoto is looking forward to someday playing with Edmonton Oilers snipers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl after Edmonton selected Yamamoto, a forward with the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs, with the 22nd pick of the draft.
“I’m really looking forward to going to that skill team,” Yamamoto said. “I think it’s going to definitely benefit my game.”
The 5-foot-7, 140-pound right wing was listed as the 17th-best North American skater by Central Scouting.
Spokane Chiefs’ Kailer Yamamoto hopes to prove that size doesn’t matter after the Edmonton Oilers chose the 5-foot-7 forward in the first round of the NHL Draft (Photo/Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs).
A Spokane native of Japanese and Hawaiian heritage, Yamamotoled the Chiefs in scoring in 2016-17 with 42 goals and 47 assists in 65 games. His older brother, Keanu, was Spokane’s fourth-leading scorer last season with 26 goals and 43 assists in 72 games.
“My dad’s dad, he’s from Japan actually, he was in the internment camps,” Kailer Yamamoto said. “My dad’s half Japanese so that makes me a quarter Japanese. It’s unbelievable to be Japanese, get the Japanese heritage, and hopefully be in the NHL someday.”
Right after Yamamoto had his name called, defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph was chosen with the 23nd pick of the draft by the Arizona Coyotes.
Joseph patrolled the blue line last season for the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior HockeyLeague, where he had 6 goals and 33 assists in 62 games.
Joseph wasn’t a stranger to the spectacle and hype of draft day. He watched his older brother, forward Mathieu Joseph of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, get drafted by the TampaBay Lightning in the fourth round in 2015.
Still, the younger Joseph – who was ranked as the 27th-best North American skater eligible for the draft by Central Scouting – admitted to having a case of the jitters on Friday.
“Obviously, I didn’t want to think about the draft,” he said. “I played cards and watched movies as the day goes on, but as I sat in the stands and watched the names go by, I was thinking whether I’d get called or not.”
He credited his older brother and his parents for helping him achieve his draft day moment.
“I was a bit of an underdog,” Joseph said. “Obviously, I had my brother and my family to push me. Everyone has been there for me to push me and make me the player I am now.”
Thanks to Evan Moore for contributing to this report.
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Auston Matthews leads the Maple Leafs to the playoffs in his rookie year.
And players of color are in the thick of all these events. Of the 16 teams in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all but four – the Boston Bruins, OttawaSenators, Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks – have minority players.
And two of those teams have minority coaches. Sudarshan Maharaj, a Trinidadian raised in Toronto, is the goaltender coach for the Ducks and Paul Jerrard is an assistant coach for the Flames.
While NHLers battle for the Stanley Cup, teenagers from 10 North American and European nations are fighting for international bragging rights at the IIHF U18 World Championship.
Akil Thomas, a rookie forward with the Niagara Ice Dogs, is playing for Canada. The son of a Canadian career minor league hockey player and a mother from suburban Washington, D.C., Thomas had 21 goals and 27 assists in 61 games for the Ontario Hockey League team.
Forward Akil Thomas joined Team Canada for the IIHF U18 World Championship after his strong rookie season with the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs (Photo/Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).
He’s joined on Team Canada’s by another major junior rookie, defenseman Jett Woo of the Western Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Warriors. Woo collected 5 goals and 17 assists in 65 games with the Warriors.
Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Jett Woo has been making waves at the IIHF U18 World championship with his solid play (Photo/ Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).
The 6-foot-2 NHL draft-eligible defenseman skates for the USA Hockey National Team DevelopmentProgram and is ranked as the 68th-best North American skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting.
Inamoto tallied 2 goals and 9 assists in 42 games for the U.S.’s Under-18 team in 2016-17. He had 2 goals and 5 assists in 17 games for Team USA in the United States Hockey League.
If Inamoto is drafted, the NHL will have to wait. He’s committed to play hockey in the fall for the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
“Inamoto is a predator,” Badgers Head Coach Tony Granato said in November. “He is a physical, hungry, intimidating player. He is a great athlete. He’s big, strong, and has a mean streak…He’ll be a physical impact player right away next year. He’s strong enough already to play a physical game at the college level.”
USA defenseman Tyler Inamoto is ranked as the 68th best draft-eligible North American skater by NHL Central Scouting (Photo/Len Redkoles).
While the Under-18 championship is going on, 16 countries are finalizing their rosters for next month’s IIHF World Championship, a tourney that will feature some NHL players whose teams didn’t make the Stanley Cup Playoffs or were eliminated in the early rounds.
Team Canada quickly snapped up forward Wayne Simmonds, who led the Philadelphia Flyers‘ in goals with 31 in 82 games.
Team USA named Boston University massive forward Jordan Greenway to its squad. Greenway, a 2015 Wild second-round draft choice, was a 6-foot-5, 230-pound force in January, powering the U.S. to a Gold Medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal.
Greenway scored three goals and five assists in seven games for the U.S. and was the team’s second-leading scorer. Two of his three goals were game-winners. He was BU’s fifth-leading scorer in 2016-17 with 10 goals and 21 assists in 37 games for the Terriers.
Despite his impressive season, Greenway has elected to return to BU for his junior year instead of trying to make the leap to the NHL.
“I have a great time here with my teammates, and BU has just been great to me,” Greenway told Boston Hockey Blog’s Jonathan Sigal. “I want to win a couple more championships here, so definitely one more year is what I’m going to do.”
I haven’t seen co-host country France’s roster yet for the Worlds, but you can bet that it will include Flyers forward Pierre Edouard Bellemare, who has become one of the best French-born players to skate in the NHL.
Pierre Edouard Bellemare is pumped about World Championship being in his home country, France.
A late bloomer, the 32-year-old defensive specialist tallied 4 goals and 4 assists in 82 games. The Flyers liked Bellemare’s grit and grace enough that they re-signed him for two years at $1.45 million per year and added him to the team’s leadership, making him an assistant team captain.
He’s as pumped about the prospect of playing in his home country during the World Championship as he was getting the new contract and the ‘A’ from the Flyers. France, whose men’s team is ranked 14th in the world, opens the tournament May 6against Norway in Paris.
“I think it’s going to be incredible,” Bellemare, a member of the French national team since 2004, told IIHF’s Lucas Akryod. “It is the first Worlds in France. I hope we will get a lot of fans for all the games, and that hockey will continue to develop in France.
Hockey’s busy spring rolls into summer when the brain trusts from the NHL’s 30 teams convene inside Chicago’s United Center for the draft June 23-24.
The NHL’s Central Scouting released its final player rankings earlier this month and there are several players of color to watch in addition to Inamoto.
There’s Nick Suzuki, a 5-foot-10 center for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. Central Scouting ranks the London, Ontario, Canada native as the 10th-best North American skater. He was the Attack’s second-leading scorer with 45 goals and 51 assists in 65 games.
Owen Sound’s Nick Suzuki is ranked as the 10th-best North American skater eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images).
Then there’s Jason Robertson, a 6-foot-2 left wing for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. Central Scouting ranks the Michigan native as the 14th-best North American skater. He led the Frontenacs in scoring in 2016-17 with 42 goals and 39 assists in 68 games.
Kingston Frontenacs left wing Jason Robertson jumped from 34th in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to 14th in its final listing before June’s NHL Draft (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).
Pierre-Olivier Joseph, a defenseman for the Charlottetown Islanders of the QuebecMajor Junior Hockey League. He’sranked as the 27th-best North American skater by Central Scouting.
The 6-foot-2, 161-pound 18-year-old notched 6 goals and 33 assists in 62 games for the Charlottetown.
Joseph is the younger brother of forward Mathieu Joseph, a sniper for the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs and a 2015 fourth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He signed an entry level contract with the ‘Bolts prior to playing for Canada in the 2017 World Juniors.
Another potential 2017 draftee is Cole Purboo, a forward for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. He’sranked as the 189th-best North American skater. The 6-foot-3 Oakville, Ontario, Canada native scored 11 goals and 6 assists in 68 games for the Spitfires.
“I was hoping (to be) a little higher, but it’s alright,” Purboo told The Windsor Star last week of his Central Scouting rank. “It’s just people making a list…The same thing happened with the OHL draft. I don’t pay too much attention to them.”
Cole Purboo of the Windsor Spitfires (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).
Standing on the outside of top North American skaters on Central Scouting’s list is Elijah Roberts, a defenseman for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.
Elijah Roberts of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images).
The 5-foot-8, 159-pound blue-liner, slipped from 208th in Central Scouting’s midterm list. He scored 4 goals and 14 assists in 65 games with the Rangers in 2016-17.
He’s considered undersized by today’s NHL standards, but his height hasn’t stopped him from excelling on ice. He was a major contributor for Team Canada in the World Under-17 hockey challenge.
“He’s a fast skater, very mobile, very aggressive on the ice,” one scout told Canada’s Sportsnet. “He’s been aggressive at the OHL level, too. He’s just a good kid; he skates hard and he works hard.”
Some NHL teams have drafted small D-men. The Vancouver Canucks took Jordan Subban, P.K. Subban’s 5-foot-9 younger brother, in the fourth round in 2013.
The diminutive defenseman was the sixth-leading scorer for the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ American Hockey League farm team, in 2016-17 with 16 goals and 20 assists in 64 games.