This Kraken argument is based on one big assumption: Shane Wright impresses enough in training camp to make playing in the NHL a legitimate option.
“My goal is to earn my spot in Seattle and make that team, but whatever happens happens,” Wright said Monday. “I wanna make sure I can go and earn my spot and prove myself that I deserve to be on Seattle this year.
Now’s his chance to back it up. He looked solid in the two-day rookie camp, outmuscled at times, but with his skating and his strong, accurate shot in fine working order.
Wright will have to give veteran Pierre-Edouard Bellemare a run for his money. One would hope that’s a strong possibility since Bellemare is 38-years-old and if he’s a fix, it’s a temporary one. Bellemare can slot in nicely on a penalty kill that wasn’t so good last season.
Devin Shore can play all of the forward positions. The 29-year-old is on a one year, two-way deal, meaning in his case, he gets paid a third of his salary if he ends up in the American Hockey League.
Both veteran forwards were signed by the Kraken out of free agency, Bellemare in July, having last played with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Shore in August, last with the Edmonton Oilers. He also spent some time in the American Hockey League last season.
The 19-year-old Wright’s performance will be, without a doubt, one of the more compelling things to watch at Kraken training camp. Yes, he was the 4th-overall pick at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal, and it’s the expectations that came with that selection, and the likeability that he brings to the table, that make his story so intriguing.
Ultimately it might come down to whether or not he’s been able to, or will be able to, figure out the responsibilities that come from playing a 200-foot NHL game. Centers have added responsibilities compared to wingers.
So let’s dangerously assume he’s ready to rock.
Do you play him on the 4th line in Seattle, or do you send him to the AHL where he’ll see 15 to 19 minutes on one of the top two lines?
My first thought is to let him play in the big show. Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol rolls his lines like few other coaches in the NHL. It’s part of his team’s identity. It’s a philosophy of trust, and it allows fourth liners to maybe see nine to 13 minutes of ice time on a regular basis as opposed to six to ten.
Skill-wise, Wright’s upside at this stage blows Bellemare’s out of the water. It’s the energetic Labrador retriever puppy against the aging French bulldog.
You’re not destroying Wright’s career or potential by limiting his minutes at the NHL level. You’re building his confidence, adding a burgeoning offensive threat to the bottom-six forward group, and opening his eyes to the possibility of climbing up the ladder in the line-up.
Alexander Wennberg’s not going to be the number-two center forever, that’s for sure.
The opposing argument is the more conservative and potentially logical way of steering things. It’s also the more patient approach for an organization that seems to believe that characteristic is indeed a virtue. They appear to be in no rush.
Also, on the surface, more responsibilities for this player at the AHL level seems like a smart idea. Power play time, more ice time, more rep’s.
The problem is; it’s not where this kid is supposed to be and it’s against lesser competition.
If It’s 50/50, Keep Him
If he proves himself in camp, keep him in the big show. If he needs to go down, he’s waiver exempt. Wright is starting the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract. He gets paid significantly less if he’s in the AHL, while he has a shot at making substantial performance bonuses if he plays in the NHL.
If it means more offense and making the playoffs, the club will be happy to dole out bonuses.
“This is my second time around in training camp,” Wright pointed out. “I had those games of experience, a couple (8) with Seattle and the playoffs there with Coachella. Just having that experience under my belt and knowing what to expect, knowing what it takes to be at that level and knowing what level I have to get myself to, it’s obviously nice to known that’s the level of play I have to rise up to to earn a spot.”
Oh, by the way, center Ryan Winterton, considered another Kraken top prospect, and even David Goyette, will have a say in this. Wouldn’t that be something?
Did we mention the training camp competitions this week will be intriguing?
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