Today I still believe that the Seattle Kraken won the 2022 National Hockey League Entry Draft when Shane Wright fell to them at No. 4overall. People all over Montreal had already bought jerseys, so certain were they that the fifth player ever to be granted “Exceptional” status by the Ontario Hockey League would be headed to the Bell Centre this fall. And even if the Canadiens chose between two virtual equals at #1, either of the next two teams on the board should have grabbed the talented young center, but I was, and am, thrilled that they didn’t.
That being said, not every 18 year old is ready for the NHL. It isn’t a mark of shame, or any indication of a doomed career, and my hope is that general manager Ron Francis and head coach Dave Hakstol can see that. From the preseason on I have felt that Wright lacked confidence on the ice, and while his minutes have slowly increased over the first weeks of the season, he’s still playing a rather insignificant role, rarely making the highlight package and having only managed a single assist.
Wright doesn’t need to score at the pace fellow rookie Matty Beniers is setting. The team is doing well, better than almost anyone expected actually, and is producing wins without much production from him. He’s a +4 but his advanced stats are less flattering. That might be a result of playing on the bottom half of the lineup, and honestly the lack of scoring goal be attributed to the same.
But it doesn’t look like he’s needed in the top six either. Wright is an offensive center, who can surely play on one wing or the other, but which player would you move down? The Kraken are just coming off of the longest win streak in their history, and it isn’t like Wright is taking the decision out of the coach’s hands. A move to the top six would be in hopes of increased production, not because of current play, and so, as the clock ticks on burning a year of eligibility, a decision needs to be made. Send Wright back to the OHL.
Accolades and Development
People will say that he has nothing left to prove in the OHL, but the Kingston Frontenacs, who hold Wright’s rights (ha), went out early in the playoffs last season. The 2022 World Juniors, the first ones where Wright was in attendance, were cancelled because of a wedding. The tournament was rescheduled to the summer, where the then Wright-less Canadian squad captured gold. So Wright has no junior hardware, and while he was a gold medalist on the 2020-21 men’s Under-18 squad, it has always been the U-20’s that get the headlines.
A number of things are likely to happen if Wright returns to the Frontenacs. First of all, he will once again be one of the best players on the ice every shift. He’ll score at will, gaining confidence with each puck he puts past an opposing goalie. Second, he is unlikely to finish the season with Kingston, but instead some other team will pay a fortune to add him in their own attempt at making a championship run. Wright will be paired with other blue chip prospects as he goes deep into the post-season, and maybe all the way to a Memorial Cup win as well. He would also be guaranteed a roster spot on Team Canada, and play a major role, potentially (probably) wearing a letter as he and Connor Bedard go for gold once again.
Wright’s NHL production is easily replaceable at this point. He isn’t playing on the penalty kill, and hasn’t made an impact in limited time on the powerplay. He has so much to gain from getting big minutes and responsibility in a lower league, and hasn’t forced his way into the conversation in the pros. Wright needs this time to blossom into the player he has the potential to be, and neither 3rd and 4th line minutes nor time in the press box are likely to get him there. It’s okay that Wright isn’t ready, and the sensible decision is to simply acknowledge that reality and make the “Wright” move.