There’s no reason to be overly concerned about Seattle Kraken top prospect Shane Wright not seeing all of the premiere ice time in the Calder Cup playoffs for the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
Having spoken to personnel inside and outside the organization, Wright is on the proper development path. To compare Wright to Kraken rookie phenom Matty Beniers, the likely Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie-of-the-year, is unfair. Beniers was drafted a full summer ahead of Wright, turned age-20 two months ahead of Wright turning 19, and came out of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program with two consecutive highly productive seasons at the University of Michigan.
Wright had his entire 2020-’21 Ontario Hockey League season with the Kingston Frontenacs wiped out when the OHL shut down because of Covid. That’s almost a full year of no hockey for a kid projected to go first overall in the 2022 NHL Draft and it came in what would have been his second year of major juniors.
Wright started his first year in Kingston as a 15-year-old, having been granted rare “special exempt” status by the OHL, only the fifth player in the history of the league to receive it. He posted 66 points in 58 games playing against 16 to 20-year-olds.
We’ve pointed some of this out before, and we’ve also pointed out that the Kraken can daydream about the possibility of having Beniers and Wright, a lefty/righty combo, as their two top centermen in the not-so-distant future. Should it work out as hoped, that’s a lot of long-term hockey joy-joy up the middle.
The more recent thing to keep in mind is what Wright has gone through in the past nine months. Forget about the fact he dropped three projected spaces and fell in the lap of the Kraken fourth-overall at the draft rather than going first. How about the fact that since visiting Kraken camps, he’s played eight games in the NHL where he scored his first career goal, the American Hockey League where he had four goals and two assists in eight games, the World Junior Championship where he won a Gold Medal as captain of Team Canada, and then back in the OHL where he had 37 points in 20 games for the Windsor Spitfires.
Not a normal hockey season to say the least.
Now he’s back with the Firebirds preparing along with his teammates for Game-4 of the Calder Cup western conference final against the Milwaukee Admirals.
His occasional absence from the line-up isn’t about shortcomings, it’s about Coachella Valley giving itself the best chance to win a championship. Wright’s been a part of it, with six points in 14 games including the opening goal in Game-3 of the current series. He’s “competing” for ice time against veteran men for the most part.
This isn’t about a lack of hockey sense, confusion in playing the 200-foot game, or anything attitudinal.
As you’ll often hear about a prospect in hockey on the proper track: “He’s done everything they’ve asked him to do.”
Another thing you’ll accurately hear when a highly touted teenager doesn’t leap directly in to the NHL: “The NHL is not a development league.”
This player will be there sooner than later when the organization feels he’s ready.
Not that any fans were panicking, but for the handful that were definitely wondering, the kid is all Wright.
Editor’s Note: “Dinosaurs in the audience will recognize the reference to the rock band “The Who”s 1965 song “The Kids Are Alright”, and the band’s movie of the same name from 1979.