It was a development that technically was possible, but almost nobody ever believed it would happen.
Shane Wright, consensus as the projected first overall pick for months leading up to the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, was passed over three times before the Seattle Kraken scooped up the talented center with the fourth overall selection on Thursday night in first round draft action, before a near packed house at Bell Centre in Montreal.
For months, speculation kept pointing to Wright as the full stop first pick, with plenty of question marks after in the slots afterward. The Kraken, who missed the playoffs in their expansion season last year with a 27-49-6 record, settled for the fourth overall pick following May’s draft lottery, expected to fall into that “question mark” group with potentially Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec, David Jiricek or Cutter Gauthier all at their disposal.
But Slafkovsky, an 18-year-old and a 6-foot-4, 229 pound forward who enjoyed a breakout Olympics with Team Slovakia by scoring seven goals in seven games, shocked the crowd at Bell Centre as the first name picked.
From there, predictions were turned upside down and completely splattered across the hockey world. The New Jersey Devils, entrenched with centers Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, elected to take the dynamic, puck moving defenseman Nemec with the second pick.
Logan Cooley went third to Arizona, and the collective hockey world, Seattle edition, held its breath.
It didn’t take long for general manager Ron Francis to help them exhale and celebrate. Seconds after the Kraken were on the clock, Francis approached the draft stage to swiftly make his announcement to select Wright, twice a 30-goal scorer in the Ontario Hockey League with the Kingston Frontenacs and coming of a 94-point campaign.
Wright, who said on Wednesday his mission is to “win Stanley Cups,” has 160 points in only 121 career OHL games and was the league’s rookie of the year and leading scorer last season after becoming the sixth player in league history to be granted exceptional status.
Among those players:
John Tavares, Jason Spezza, and Connor McDavid.
“I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder,” Wright told 93.3 KJR FM, who was seen glaring in the direction of the Canadiens draft table, on stage moments before slipping on a Kraken jersey for the very first time.
The move further solidifies the Kraken with young and dynamic talent, potentially for years to come. Matty Beniers, who scored nine points in his first ten NHL games at age 19, was selected by the Kraken at second overall in last year’s draft. Wright now enters the picture as a one-two punch with ability to fortify offensive needs, and future leadership in the long term.
Wright was slated to play for former Kingston head coach Paul MacFarland before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020-21 season, and MacFarland moved onto the Kraken the following season as current assistant coach.
Wright will make his first appearance in Seattle for the team’s development camp next week, July 11-14 at Kraken Community Iceplex.