Shane Wright provided the Seattle Kraken with an unexpected boost in fortune when his name was still available at fourth overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
The Kraken got their man and got potentially a significant piece of their future.
Now it looks like Seattle may get him all season long.
General manager Ron Francis, originally non-committal but hinting at Wright’s inside track to make the Kraken opening night roster at age 18, removed almost all doubt on Wednesday when he told Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Wright is likely to make the team and stay in the NHL all season.
“I don’t want to draw a line in the sand, but I would think he’s with us for the year,” Francis told The Athletic.
There are only two options for the potential star center at this point – either stay with the Kraken or go back to the Ontario Hockey League with the Kingston Frontenacs (even after nine NHL games) for another season after a dominating 94-point campaign last year. Due to bylaws in an agreement between the NHL and Canadian Hockey League (the overall governing body of three major junior leagues), Wright cannot play in the minor leagues until he is 20 years old. The NCAA does not view the major junior level with “amateur” status, so he is ineligible to play college hockey.
So, the question heading into training camp: how would Wright – at an age where it’s extremely abnormal for a majority of players to make the straight jump from the major junior level to the NHL – make the transition?
“He’s fit right in,” said Francis to The Athletic.
Very likely, Seattle is close to the dawn of a new 1-2 punch. Center Matty Beniers, drafted second overall a year before Wright, had nine points in his first ten NHL games after leaving college, and looks every bit the part of a young forward primed to contend for the Calder Trophy with three goals in three pre-season games.
Armed with a physique that is beyond his current age, Wright has drawn attention with the Kraken, who are 4-1 in the pre-season, for his confidence with the puck, aptitude in the offensive zone, and ability to generate scoring chances.
According to analytics source naturalstattrick.com, Wright in the preseason is operating at an expected goals for percentage rate of 56 percent, a metric used to interpret shot quality (a general rule of thumb: anything over 50 percent is good).
He has one assist in four games, using his shot from the right circle to create a perfect carom off Thatcher Demko in Vancouver to set up a rebound goal for Tye Kartye last Thursday, against a Canucks lineup that was mostly of the NHL squad.
“We didn’t hide him,” head coach Dave Hakstol said after the win of Wright’s assignment.
Nobody as far as Kraken forwards have played more this pre-season than Wright, who has logged 62:10 of total ice time across four games. In Monday night’s loss at Calgary, also against a handful of NHL experience, Wright struggled in the face-off circle at a 2-of-6 clip but also set up Jordan Eberle on a two-on-one that hit the post behind Jacob Markstrom.
After Wright introduced himself to Seattle by signing his entry level contract at center ice with Francis in July at Kraken development camp, he set out on a mission to prepare for the rigors of NHL physicality for the remaining weeks of summer he had use and prepare.
“Things got a little more intense,” Wright told 93.3 KJR. “Stuff after the draft was more small area games and scrimmages with NHL players s much as I could. I think that was something I wanted to add into my off-season work – more of the small area games and getting ready for the compete level and speed I’ll be facing at the next level.”
There is one more pre-season game to go, Friday in Edmonton. Wright did his offseason homework, now close to getting a chance to face his first 82-game test.