Shane Wright will get a chance to play more.
The 18-year old center, a potential cornerstone piece to the Seattle Kraken after being selected fourth overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, has been re-assigned to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Coachella Valley Firebirds on a conditioning loan.
Wright has joined the Firebirds and is eligible to make his AHL debut in Calgary, on Tuesday. The loan comes with a specific condition that Wright has a maximum two-week stay at the AHL level, which would cover five games.
He then must be sent back to the Kraken, where he will again walk the same path as Saturday night: either the Kraken decide to keep him with a nine-game “tryout” period (ten games played means the first year of his three-year contract kicks in), or send him to the Ontario Hockey League and his major junior club from last year, the Kingston Frontenacs to complete the season.
The move gives Wright a chance to face fellow developing talent of his skill class, and get an extraordinarily larger amount of ice time than what he’s been accustomed to. Wright has been scratched for 11 of the first 18 games while playing just over nine minutes once, when he was iced for 13:45 in a Nov. 3 win at Minnesota.
It’s an exercise in more reps potentially delivering more results. Rather than delicately maneuver a third or fourth line role in the NHL, he’s an instant candidate to slide into a top-six center role with Coachella Valley for his two week stay.
Now, if you want to react with “wait a minute,” because of an existing CHL-NHL Agreement that prevents this sort of thing, it’s understandable.
The agreement prevents drafted players from being sent to the AHL or other minor leagues until they turn 20 years old, primarily to prevent early pillaging of talent among the Canadian Hockey League clubs who produce those players, typically from ages 16-20, and often compete with the best in the world for their age group.
The OHL functions under the governing body of the CHL, meaning Wright has to stay in Seattle or be sent back to Kingston, where he has proven to post prodigious offensive numbers but face questions on an appropriate level of challenge for a player of his caliber.
But in Wright’s case, there is a reported loophole with the conditioning loan. An under-20 CHL player can be scratched five games in a row (Wright hit that benchmark Saturday night vs. the Los Angeles Kings) and be assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate, provided the stay does not extend past two weeks.
That would target Wright to return to the Kraken on December 4, two days before they would face the first team that passed on him, the Montreal Canadiens, and for months his originally rumored destination.
What’s also around the corner after the AHL stint is Wright potentially joining Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championships, another bright television lights-platform in facing elite global talent, also of his age, with similar “future NHL star” labels.
Team Canada, led behind the bench by a familiar face to the Seattle area, head coach Dennis Williams of the Everett Silvertips, is scheduled to open selection camp on December 9, then finalize their roster before the tournament opens Dec. 26 in Moncton, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Funny enough, the tournament will conclude on Jan. 5, right in the middle of a Kraken seven-game eastern road trip, including stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Buffalo and Boston.
The Kings, of note, did this seven days ago with Brandt Clarke, a blue-chip 19-year old defenseman sent to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League. Clarke, like Wright, is a high draft pick out of the major junior ranks with big future plans, and was selected by the Kings at eighth overall last year.
He too, is ineligible for full-season AHL play, but the Kings opted for the conditioning loan to Ontario with two assists in nine NHL games.
Clarke so far has a goal and an assist in three games with Ontario.
Wright, with one assist in seven NHL games, last year exploded from a previous pandemic-cancelled season in Kingston to rip off 94 points in 63 games and has 160 points in 121 OHL games, while winning CHL Rookie of the Year honors with exempt status, debuting three years ago in the league at age 15.
WHERE WRIGHT COULD PLAY, NEXT 14 DAYS:
· Tuesday, Nov. 22, Coachella Valley at Calgary, 6pm PT
· Thursday, Nov. 24, Coachella Valley at Calgary, 6pm PT
· Saturday, Nov. 26, Coachella Valley at San Diego, 6pm PT
· Friday, Dec. 2, Coachella Valley at Henderson, 7pm PT
· Saturday, Dec. 3, Coachella Valley at Henderson, 7pm PT