Name: Tyler Inamoto
Height: 6’2” Weight: 194 lbs.
Team: US National Team Development Program
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 68th among North American skaters
What I Like
At 6’2” 194 lbs., Inamoto is a really big, athletic kid. His big wing span, combined with decent skating ability makes him really good in the defensive zone. He can cover a lot of space to stay with opposing forwards and take away passing lanes. He shows potential as a shutdown defender at the next level.
He uses that size to his advantage because he loves to hit. There’s a real meanness in his game. He’s a punishing presence along the boards and can occasionally set up a nice open ice hit. Analytics people say that type of thing is over-rated, but it’s definitely something opposing players account for when he’s on the ice. He’s not fun to play against.
What I Don’t Like
Inamoto is not a great puckhandler, especially under pressure, which means he turns the puck over or punts away possession quite a bit. He’s good defensively, but he spends too much in his own zone defending, and when that happens, mistakes are bound to happen eventually.
Limited Offensive Upside
The lack of puck-handling and passing ability shows up on the offensive end of the ice too. Inamoto had just two goals and 11 assists in 51 games with the NTDP this past season. It’s unlikely he ever contributes much in that area, and that lack of versatility limits his upside.
Inamoto has shown steady improvement in this area since he was a youngster, even though he picked up 108 PIMs in 51 games this year. He still has the tendency to take himself off the ice too often with silly penalties. Calibrating himself to walk that line between aggressive and too aggressive is something that should be correctable, but it’s an area that will need to improve.
I’ll admit to not being a huge fan of Inamoto’s game, but I can also certainly recognize why teams might like him, and also recognize that players like him tend to go a bit earlier than expected at the NHL Draft. I’ve always seen a lot of similarities between Inamoto and JD Greenway, who was selected in the third round of last year’s Draft. I could see the same happening this year with Inamoto being selected towards the tail end of the top 100 picks to a team willing to gamble on his upside
Barring some major change, Inamoto will be a defensive defenseman at the next level. He is headed to the University of Wisconsin next season where he’ll play for a staff known for developing defensemen. He’ll also be in a good spot because the Badgers are extremely thin on the blue line, which means he should see a lot of ice time immediately. He’ll likely need two to three years with the Badgers, but if he can develop his puck management skills to an adequate level, he would be a serviceable as a second or third pairing physical presence at the NHL level.