When Shane Wright, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, fell to the Seattle Kraken at No. 4 in the 2022 NHL draft, it set the franchise up with two blue-chip center prospects in Wright and Matty Beniers. However, Shane Wright’s playing time has been limited with the Kraken this season, averaging only 8:06 per game in seven games this season. He’s been a healthy scratch six times already this season.
And the Kraken are doing the right thing.
The Kraken have two options:
- Send Wright down to the Ontario Hockey League, where he would play out the season. This isn’t an uncommon choice, and Sean argues that it’s the right one.
- Keep him on the NHL Kraken roster with the option to send him down at a later point if they want.
In the OHL, he would be playing against greatly inferior talent and that’s generally not great for his development for a league he’s played in since 2019. On the other hand, in the NHL he’s playing against greatly superior talent, and that also generally isn’t great for player development.
The ideal solution is he spends a season playing in the American Hockey League against adults and superior, sub-NHL competition. But due to an agreement between the NHL and the entity that oversees the OHL, he cannot do so until he is 20. He can swim with the sharks or swim with the plankton. The Kraken are forced to choose between two suboptimal options.
Keeping Wright in the NHL gives Seattle flexibility
- If Seattle sends Wright to the OHL, that’s it. He is not eligible to be on the NHL roster until the OHL season is over. However, Seattle can keep him in the NHL and choose to send him down later — though it’ll count as a year of his contract once he reached 10 games played.
- If he did play in the OHL, he would be sent back to the Kingston Fronteacs, who are not a great team. He could be traded to a more competitive team with a shot at winning the Memorial Cup, but for now he’d be sent back to Kingston. The OHL trade deadline is in January.
- There is a loophole the Kraken can use: if Wright is a healthy scratch for five consecutive games, he can do a two-week conditioning stint in the AHL. It can only be used once, but that’s an option available to the Kraken if he stays in the NHL.
The game isn’t too big for him
Wright at times looks like an 18-year-old playing against grown professionals, and he can get knocked off the puck. That’s normal and to be expected of someone his age. He’s about 8 years away from his physical peak.
But Wright also looks like someone who processes the game quickly. Young players are often tentative and unsure. Wright, when given the opportunity to play, has played with confidence and decisiveness — things that you don’t usually see in players that young.
I compiled a couple of clips of his last game. You see him going into the corners, getting in front of the net, playing defense, drawing penalties, and he’s making his decisions quickly. Is it perfect? Of course not. He might get knocked down more easily than he will be in a couple of years, but he’s processing the game at a level that most at his age do not.
Shane Wright Seattle at Pittsburgh part 2 pic.twitter.com/wenDEQpejv— Zaiem Beg country let’s ride (@zbeg) November 11, 2022
You may look at this and say, “What’s the big deal? He just looks like he’s doing the things that every NHLer does.”
Exactly. He looks like an NHLer, not a teenager who finds the stage too big.
The Kraken ethos: patience
Seattle is not in a rush to play Wright. They are also in the hunt for a playoff spot, and having Wright on the NHL roster serves two purposes:
- He is with the NHL club, working on conditioning with the coaches and practicing with the big league team.
- He is available when injuries happen.
And if Seattle decides that this isn’t the right move after all, they can always send him down to the OHL.
NHL roster development operates on long timelines. It’s important to think about not just this year, but what’s best for Shane Wright in 2023 and beyond. Keeping him in the NHL allows the Kraken to better evaluate him and assess what the best situation is for him.
Seattle has all their options open to them, and as long as they are evaluating Wright, it would be wise to keep those options open. Sending him to the OHL right now would be premature.
The Kraken, in their short history, have been rewarded for being patient. When GMs said no to side deals at the expansion draft, Seattle waited until the trade deadline and acquired boatloads of draft capital then. Dave Hakstol was panned as a coach in year one, but in year two the team is playing more cohesively and they don’t give up and they are winning.
So the Kraken’s patient, deliberate approach should come as no surprise when it comes to Shane Wright. It’s not the splashiest or sexiest thing in the world, but the Kraken have never been about splashy or sexy. They’re about long-term results.
Wright is where he needs to be for now.