As one chapter closes, for countless teenagers, another is set to begin.
"It was an awesome experience," Spokane Chiefs forward Kailer Yamamoto said. "Being able to go to school in my hometown--go to school with my friends (was great). My teachers at Mead High School did a phenomenal job with me. I give them a lot of credit."
For Kailer Yamamoto, the next chapter looks different from most.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to sleep a little bit more in," Yamamoto said. "It's the best I don't have to do anymore school work."
This week Yamamoto will get a clearer idea of what his future holds.
"It's going to be a surreal moment for me in my life," the 18-year-old said. "Growing up in Spokane, I never thought I'd be here."
The Chiefs star is projected to get picked in the first round of the NHL Draft.
"It's stressful," Yamamoto added.
Months of gearing up has included everything from interviews with teams, to the grueling physical tests at the pre-draft combine.
"My first couple were just brutal. I'm pretty sure the teams thought I was not smart," Yamamoto said with a laugh. "They push you to your max."
But, no matter how well he performs in front of scouts and coaches, there is one characteristic he cannot change.
"I'm one of the smaller guys in the draft," Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto is putting in the necessary effort in the offseason after spending the last three winters terrorizing the WHL. Yet, he keeps hearing about how he does not quite measure up.
"I definitely think I've turned a little bit of heads." Yamamoto said. "It still makes me mad a little bit when people talk about (my size), but I think I kind of like it because it gives me that drive inside where I want to prove every time I'm on the ice that I'm the best player on the ice and that I can play with anybody. It doesn't matter the size."
It is a story this town has seen before with Tampa Bay Lightning stud, Tyler Johnson.
"(Johnson) made that path pretty easy for me, took out all the bushes and stuff so I'm really looking to follow that path," Yamamoto, who knows Johnson well, said.
Johnson was also bred in Spokane, and like Yamamoto, stands is a few inches south of six feet tall. That kept him from getting drafted - a minor obstacle on his road to NHL stardom.
"(Johnson) tells me all the time 'don't listen to people who don't believe in you, believe in yourself and believe in the people that believe in you...believe that you can do anything on that ice whether you're big or small.'"
Yamamoto is further proof of that - which is why he will hear his name called this week by a team who shares that belief in the electrifying forward - and wants to make sure they are part of his next chapter.
"It's been my dream ever since I stepped on the ice," Yamamoto, who scored 99 points for the Chiefs last season, said. "Whichever team takes me, it's going to be my new favorite team. I'm going to love it and take in every moment."
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