Strange circumstances and the nature of the beast took some of the shine off Shane Wright’s prospects Thursday night at the NHL entry draft in Montreal. Some of it was pandemic upheaval, and the nature of the 2022 draft pool.
“What have you done for me lately?” ended up mattering more than a body of work.
There wasn’t a generational talent in this draft, and Wright, NHL Central Scouting’s top North American skater in the midterm and final rankings, slipped to No. 4 overall, going to a Kraken team that couldn’t have been counting on him. With fellow center Matty Beniers — the No. 2 overall pick in 2021 — the 6-foot, 198-pound Wright is someone to build around.
“I’ve always been self-motivated, always been pushing myself internally,” Wright said. “It’s definitely going to give me a little more fire.”
Wright will attend Seattle’s development camp at Kraken Community Iceplex next week from Monday-Thursday, the team announced Thursday.
Burlington, Ontario, native Wright was granted exceptional-player status and was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League a year early at 15. That group is tiny and full of first overall picks — John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid — and Wright’s entry was justified when he put up 66 points (39 goals) through 58 games with the Kingston Frontenacs as a rookie during the 2019-20 season.
What should have been his sophomore reprise devolved into days, then weeks, then months of garage workouts. Some players found other places to go. Wright stayed and trained, waiting for the announcement to come. The OHL never restarted and formally canceled the season in April 2021, the only one of Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues not to hold a 2020-21 season.
The only line on his hockey resume from that season is five games at the 2021 U-18 World Junior Championship. He had 14 points, including nine goals.
All told, he went 13 months without competitive hockey.
With a history such as Wright’s, 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 19 games the first two months after play resumed wasn’t enough for rave reviews. The criticism was so “out of control” and constant that Wright’s father, Simon, told The Canadian Press he deleted his Twitter account.
The Frontenacs captain’s eventual 94-point 2021-22 season is considered a black mark on someone of his caliber. Meanwhile Thursday’s No. 1 overall selection, Juraj Slafkovsky, earned a reputation with his play in the Olympics (seven goals, seven games, tournament MVP) and world championship (three goals, six assists, eight games).
The Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils (Simon Nemec) and Arizona Coyotes (Logan Cooley) passed on Wright at the Bell Centre. The Kraken, widely expected to take a right-shot defenseman, pounced. Time will tell whether they got a No. 1 for a discounted price.
“Obviously you want to go first. It’s something every guy wants to do going into the draft,” Wright said. “But I couldn’t be happier being in Seattle. Couldn’t be happier with being a Kraken. I’m really excited about the future ahead in Seattle.”
Wright didn’t end the streak of exceptional-status players going No. 1. The previous two, Sean Day (New York Rangers, 81st overall, 2016) and Joe Veleno (Detroit Red Wings, 30th overall, 2018), were nearly shut out of the first round.
Does the Kraken’s new building block have a few dings? Those are in the eyes of the beholder.
“Definitely going to have a chip on my shoulder,” Wright said.
Rounds 2-7 of the NHL draft start at 8 a.m. Friday. The Kraken are set to pick four times in the second round.