A year ago Bruins fans were energized and excited while watching the World Junior summer showcase and witnessing a potential star in the making as Charlie McAvoy skated, moved the puck and obliterated forward prospect Lawson Crouse with a huge open ice hit. Perhaps it’s no surprise eight months later McAvoy was already in the NHL and paying dividends on that massive potential with an impressive playoff performance averaging a massive 26 minutes of ice time in six postseason games for the Black and Gold.
Unfortunately, it’s a much quieter summer showcase from Team USA this time around from a B’s perspective.
A couple of B’s draft picks, defenseman Ryan Lindgren and center Trent Frederic, are at the USA Hockey camp vying for world junior roster spots, but it’s 5-foot-8 Kailer Yamamoto that’s taken the summer hockey exhibition by storm. That’s the same skilled, explosive Yamamoto that the Edmonton Oilers took 22nd overall and just four spots after the Bruins played it safe in the first round with solid, stay-at-home defenseman prospect Urho Vaakanainen.
Yamamoto scored, assisted and was a dominant force by while skating on a top line with lottery pick Casey Mittelstadt and fellow first rounder Logan Brown for Team USA vs. Sweden on Thursday. He certainly didn’t look undersized or unable to easily handle the higher level of international play, and instead resembled Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Johnson or any number of feisty, productive and small NHL wingers making their way in the league these days.
Clearly, it’s impossible to accurately evaluate it at this point because Vaakenainen could turn into a solid 10-year pro that will more than justify his selection by Boston, and Yamamoto faces odds stacked against him when he’ll be one of the smallest players in the NHL once he gets there. But the league is trending toward the tremendous speed and skill that Yamamoto brings to the table, and that’s not changing anytime soon. The bottom line is that it’s somebody else’s draft pick that’s got the hockey world oohing and aahing this week at the summer showcase.
The situation is all the more striking with former Bruins Director of Scouting Keith Gretzky now working as an assistant GM with Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton. That’s the very same Oilers team that happily scooped up the dynamic Yamamoto after the Bruins, along with the Sharks, Blues and Rangers passed on a potentially explosive winger while instead settling on a solid, no-frills defenseman with a lot of work to do offensively.
It certainly felt a lot better from a Bruins perspective last summer when they had the hot prospect making all the highlight reels at the showcase event.