Seattle Kraken Top Prospect
The maneuver was looming. With limited NHL ice time available for the club’s 4th-overall 2022 NHL Draft pick, the Seattle Kraken have exercised a loophole in the agreement between the NHL and the CHL (Canadian Hockey League, the conglomerate group of major junior leagues, the WHL, OHL, and Quebec League) which allows Shane Wright to be sent to the American Hockey League for two weeks.
The ice time will do him good.
Seattle Kraken radio reported that Wright will get an opportunity to play for the Coachella Valley Firebirds against professionals at the American Hockey League level during a road trip to Calgary, San Diego, and Henderson, Nevada. The five game stint would end December 3rd, just prior to the Kraken’s December 6th home game against the Montreal Canadiens.
The club wouldn’t be motivated necessarily to get Wright into the NHL line-up that evening, but one would think Wright would be champing at the bit. Long projected as the top-overall pick for this past summer’s draft, the Habs “snubbed” Wright, who fell to the Kraken at 4th-overall. Montreal took Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovski with the top pick. Slafkovski is playing in the NHL and has four points and 21 penalty minutes in 13 games played.
The 2020-’21 OHL Season Vanished
The Covid pandemic that knocked out an Ontario Hockey League season, thus stunting Wright’s statistics and credentials, may have been a hockey blessing in disguise for the Seattle Kraken. Wright is a strong skater, a prodigious talent, but one who’s still only 18-years-of-age with a gap in his development. He turns 19 on January 5th.
Wright joined the likes of John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad to be allowed early access to the OHL as a 15-year-old ‘special exemption’. In his 15/16-year-old season he put up 66 points in 58 games for the Kingston Frontenacs. After the lost season, he came back for his pre-NHL Draft 17/18-year-old season and posted 94 points in 63 games.
The CHL has its agreement with the NHL for a reason. Because 19-year-olds make up the strongest part of the major junior league rosters, and the substantial majority of the World Junior Championship rosters, officially the ‘under 20’s’, the junior leagues don’t want it easy for NHL teams to send 18-year-old drafted prospects to the AHL. If they’re not playing in the NHL, the CHL wants them back.
This remains a possibility for Wright as well. Not only could the Seattle Kraken opt to send Wright to the World Junior tournament this December to represent Canada, they could also send him back to Kingston to finish the season in the OHL. After ten NHL games played that possibility disappears, as at that point Wright would burn the first year of his three-year NHL entry-level contract. Wright has played in seven games with 4th-line minutes.
At this point, unless he suddenly lights it up and becomes a must-have at the NHL level, it wouldn’t make much sense for the Kraken to keep him around. Why would you burn a year of his deal when you can wait and let it start all over again next fall?
Regardless, Seattle Kraken General Manager Ron Francis has options and he’s exercising them. Plus, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. There’s absolutely no reason to force this prospect into the line-up. Francis’s club of sea monsters is sailing along rather nicely at the moment.