His nerves were admittedly tingling before Shane Wright made a preseason debut in a Kraken uniform most hockey observers hadn’t expected him to don before July’s NHL entry draft. 

But a shift or two into Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory over the Calgary Flames at Climate Pledge Arena, the consensus No. 1 overall pick for most of the past two years — who famously dropped to the Kraken at No. 4 — started getting a feel for this whole NHL thing. Though Wright didn’t factor in the scoring, his presence on the roster with that of rookie centerman Matty Beniers has certainly generated preseason optimism for a club looking quite different already.

“It was definitely a pretty cool experience and something I’ve been looking forward to for basically my entire life,” Wright said. “So, it was definitely a lot of fun. It took a little adjusting to the first few and throughout the game. But it was obviously a great win and I was really happy overall with the result.”

Wearing No. 51 — meant to signify the first month and fifth day of his Jan. 5 birthday — Wright centered a line between veteran wingers Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle and also took a regular turn on the primary power play line. Both vets told Wright to relax and enjoy himself, which he looked to do about 12 minutes in when he nearly scored on a power play chance and saw Eberle barely miss converting the rebound.

Wright had played in an NHL arena before at the World Junior Hockey Championships but felt the Climate Pledge crowd might have been the loudest he’d performed in front of. And he fed off the energy, using it to overcome some of the usual obstacles faced by first-timers at this level.

“I think just speed,” he said of the biggest difference from his junior days with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. “Guys are really fast and they’re closing quick so you have less time with the puck, less time to make plays. I think that was a really big thing and also the physicality as well. A lot of older players who are going to be bigger and stronger so there are a couple of things I’ll have to adjust to for sure.”

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At age 18, Wright didn’t have the luxury of a 10-game NHL trial run as former No. 2 overall pick Beniers did last spring ahead of his own preseason debut on Monday night. Nonetheless, two players billed as future cornerstones up the middle for this franchise sure seem to have the Kraken playing with a little more swagger in the early going.

For one thing, the Kraken have yet to be scored on in winning their second preseason affair in as many nights, helped once again by standout penalty killing. Goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Magnus Hellberg split the shutout duties in this one while second-period goals by Daniel Sprong and Jaden Schwartz both stood up. 

Andrew Porturalski finished off the scoring on an empty-net goal in the final minute with Calgary’s goalie pulled for an extra attacker.

The game itself was far from perfect despite the favorable Kraken result. Both teams, as was the case Monday, again took an abundance of penalties that limited the ability of either to get untracked during even-strength play. It took a nice play by defenseman Vince Dunn about 12 minutes into the middle period to break the scoring ice, carrying the puck in deep around the Calgary net before feeding it out to Sprong for one of his patented, one-timed slap shots.

“I think offensively, we’ve tried to be a little bit more active as defensemen,” Dunn said, adding that fellow defenseman Will Borgen drew the opposing winger over and allowed Sprong to find open space. “Obviously, Spronger was open and that’s probably a guy you want to give it to when he’s open if you can.”

Dunn said he’s embraced the opportunity to move to a top line pairing after the March trade of veteran defender Mark Giordano. Having the confidence to carry the puck in deep is something the Kraken will count on more from him this season.

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“I definitely know I have a lot more to give this year and I want to take ownership of that,” he said.

The Kraken again failed to score on the power play in three chances, with Dunn manning the top unit on those. But they also killed off six more penalties and saw Schwartz score the night’s prettiest goal while short-handed. He broke in 2-on-1 with Jared McCann and the resulting tic-tac-toe passing play ended with Schwartz tapping a puck into an empty net with three minutes to go in the middle frame.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said earlier in the day he wasn’t expecting a lot from Wright or anyone else getting their first preseason games under them.

“He had a good solid night,” Hakstol said. “It starts in the faceoff dot and from there he goes out and plays a 200-foot game. So, that’s a good experience for him. I thought he went out and played a solid, hard game.”

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