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Prospect Need to Know: Kailer Yamamoto is wrecking the WHL

The Oilers pick is on a run, while some 2018 draft hopefuls made their marks at the CHL Top Prospects Game. Learn about them and more in our weekly roundup

Have we all recovered from showdown season? Numerous all-star challenges and top prospects games have taken place in the past two weeks and now we’re reaching a clearing. The next major event on the prospect calendar will be a Five Nations tournament for the under-18 set, hosted by Team USA in Michigan. That kicks off Feb. 13. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the kids making noise around the hockey world right now.

Kailer Yamamoto, RW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL) – The Western League player of the week, Yamamoto threw up 10 points in his past four games and he has been deadly for the Chiefs since the Edmonton Oilers re-assigned him. When Yamamoto is finding his spots, the offensive output is very impressive. NHL arrival: 2018-19

C.J. Smith, LW, Rochester Americans (AHL) – The MVP of the AHL’s All-Star Challenge, Smith continues his excellent rookie pro season. Signed by the Buffalo Sabres, the undrafted free agent had three goals and five points in his two games for Team North, using his deceptive shot to find the back of the net. He’s also Rochester’s top scorer with 38 points through 45 games. NHL arrival: 2018-19

Olle Eriksson Ek, G, Karlskroga (Swe.) – Coming off a shutout, the Anaheim Ducks pick has made four straight starts for Karlskroga of the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-best circuit. The younger brother of Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek, Olle has a .942 save percentage and 1.62 goals-against average while playing against men, where his size is a great tool. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Ben Finkelstein, D, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) – Finkelstein left St. Lawrence University (which is currently conducting an internal investigation of the men’s hockey program) this season and will be transferring to Boston College. In the meantime, the offensively-inclined D-man is ripping it up in Iowa. The Florida Panthers draft pick was named USHL defenseman of the week had a six-point night (including the game-winning goal) against Cedar Rapids and has turned the Hawks’ power play into a sizzler. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights (OHL) – Team Cherry’s MVP at the Top Prospects Game with four assists, Bouchard continues to climb his way up the 2018 draft board. His offensive play from the back end is superb and on a Knights team that traded some stars at the deadline, he’ll continue to play a huge role. NHL arrival: 2019-20

Anthony Angello, RW, Cornell Big Red (ECAC) – The Big Red are now the No. 1 college team in the NCAA and Angello has been a big factor. The Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick leads Cornell in scoring with 20 points in 21 games, using a nice blend of physicality and offensive skill to get the job done. NHL arrival: 2019-20

Igor Shesterkin, G, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) – One of two NHL prospects (along with NYI’s Ilya Sorokin) selected to protect Russia’s net at the Olympics, Shesterkin has been incredible in the KHL during his young career. Agile and focused, the New York Rangers pick is rocking a 1.77 GAA and .930 save percentage for SKA and gives the Russians confidence in their last line of defense. NHL arrival: 2020-21

D’Artagnan Joly, RW, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL) – A big man with some nice offensive skill, Joly went off on Friday with six assists in one game against Moncton. The Calgary Flames pick now has 47 points on the year, only one shy of last season’s total – with a lot more hockey to play still. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Jack Gorniak, C, West Salem Panthers (Wisc. HS) – While the Wisconsin high school ranks don’t turn out a lot of NHL prospects, keep an eye on Gorniak, a 2018 hopeful. An active player with great speed and a quick stick, he has 44 points in 19 games for the Panthers. The next highest scorer on the team has 24 points. Gorniak is a University of Wisconsin commit. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Kevin Bahl, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – Player of the game for Team Orr at the CHL Top Prospects Game, Bahl earned the honor with an unexpected two points on the night. A giant defenseman with shutdown capabilities, Bahl is, statistically, one of the best 2018 draft prospects when it comes to controlled zone exits by a defenseman. NHL arrival: 2020-21



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