The Edmonton Oilers have been providing the tournament goers of Penticton with an annual infusion of electric offensive players. In 2015, it was Connor McDavid (although Jake Virtanen may have decreased how much McDavid the fans got to see) and in 2017 it was Jesse Puljujärvi. The 2017 Oilers youngsters will have Kailer Yamamoto as their biggest offensive weapon.
Kailer Yamamoto: At 5’8” and 153 lbs, the Spokane Chief forward is undersized, but his propensity for putting up offense more than makes up for his lack of size. Many people compare Yamamoto to Johnny Gaudreau, which is a lofty but not unobtainable ceiling for a player who put up 42 goals and 57 assists in his draft year.
Joey Gambardella: Signed as a college free agent, the former Alternate Captain for the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks was one of the more desirable free agents of this year’s class. Garbardella has strong play-making abilities and is not afraid to battle in the corners. His 52 points in 41 games placed him in the top 10 in NCAA scoring last season. Look for the Staten Island, NY native to turn some heads this weekend.
Dylan Wells: A 5th round selection, the Peterborough Petes netminder is positionally sound. His 3.07 gaa and .916 save percentage were both in the top 10 of netminders in the OHL last year. Wells was a participant of the Hockey Canada World Junior Summer Showcase, and is a front runner for a spot on this year’s U20 team. Oh and he scored a goal in an playoff game, that’s a rare feat!
Caleb Jones: The younger brother of Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones is developing into a great player in his own right. Caleb amassed 62 points in 63 games with the Portland Winterhawks last season. In addition, Caleb had 2 assists in 7 games with the American team at the World Juniors last winter. He has decent size at 6’1” and 192 lbs. and has strong offensive and defensive awareness which suggests that a solid professional career is realistic as long as the Oilers don’t try to rush his development.
Ethan Bear: Another bright defensive prospect playing in the US Division of the Western Hockey League, Bear put up 70 points last season with the Seattle Thunderbirds. With 28 goals last season, it’s fair to say that Bear possesses the ability to get the puck through traffic and into the twine. Bear’s outstanding season led him to be named top Defenseman in the WHL. Although this is high praise, the Ochapowace, SK native needs more time developing his defensive game.
Late Round Steal
Ziyat Paigin: A monster at 6’6”, Paigin is a bit slight at 205 lbs but is a player the Oilers are very excited to see in North America after being taken 209th overall in 2015. After a somewhat down 2016-17 season in Russia, Paigin joined the Bakersfield Condors for the conclusion of their season. His game has some holes, but his strong skating, puck-moving and bullet of a shot are enticing enough to help the big Russian work on his shortcomings in the defensive end.
Intriguing Camp Invite
Chad Butcher: This may be a slight cheat here, but Butcher is attending this tournament on an AHL contract. After finishing 4th in WHL scoring last season (27g-76a-103p), Butcher sets his sights on making the Condors this year. He has great playmaking abilities, and is a decent skater that is not afraid of being physically involved (although only 5’10” and 172 lbs.). Due to his under-the-radar status as a prospect there aren’t a lot of video of Butcher’s CHL career, so ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty...
Missing In Action
Tyler Benson: The standout for the Vancouver Giants was selected 32nd overall in 2016. He was seen as a first round talent, but has had several injuries prevent him from showing his full potential. He is on the roster, but will not play as he is recovering from a Sports Hernia surgery that was performed in April.
Full roster can be found here.