Shane Wright, a promising and potential star forward drafted fourth overall by the Seattle Kraken in this past summer’s NHL Entry Draft, is facing a big two-week opportunity.
Scratched for 11 of the first 18 NHL games and just once playing over nine minutes in one game, Wright continues to stay with the Kraken rather than be dispatched for this season to the major junior ranks, where he previously nearly put up a 100-point campaign with the Kingston Frontenacs.
The Kraken are winning, 7-1-1 in the last nine games, and have rarely found reason to change their lineup. Rather than to continue to sit in the press box, Wright was re-assigned to the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds on Sunday for a two-week conditioning stint, made possible from a loophole in an agreement with the CHL that normally prevents players of his age from playing in the minor leagues until age 20.
How much is Wright going to play? Firebirds director of hockey operations Troy Bodie spoke with 93.3 KJR-FM and the Kraken Audio Network on what’s ahead for Wright, plus insight into the CHL-NHL Agreement.
MIKE BENTON: What kind of opportunity do you have with Shane Wright, joining the team and playing at this level?
TROY BODIE: I mean to get a high caliber player like him and get him in our lineup, it’s a massive boost to our lineup. We welcome him with open arms, and you know there won't be any shortage of playing time for him, that's for sure.
MB: How much usage do you think, off the bat, is going to be most useful for him and his development?
TB: He'll get a ton of ice time. Right away. I think we’ll probably use him in all situations. Power play for sure. He’ll get, top six, top line minutes. We're going to we're certainly going to use him that's for sure. He's a talented player and there's lots to use him for, in our lineup.
MB: In what ways do you think his skill set maybe meets compatibility at this level?
TB: We’ve got a lot of places we can have him. He’s obviously going to play in the middle. He’s a pretty complete player. He can score, he can make plays, and we've got players that can complement that for sure. And (we have) players you know, he will complement with his skill set.
It’s a big jump from juniors to National Hockey League and a lot of people think if you're a top five pick, you're just going to walk in and dominate. It’s just not how it works in the National Hockey League. So, I I'm glad he got a good taste of it, and he's going to come to us and play a high level of hockey. I think it's going to be a great piece for him in his career.
MB: I remember when you had a chance to jump on ice with him at development camp back in July, and you just marveled at his shot. What were your instant takeaways as far as what's already there with the NHL skill set package and what you think can be most useful here for the time well spent for two weeks, and Coachella?
TB: Well, he's got a lot of NHL ready skills. He’s got an NHL shot. He's got a high level brain. He thinks the game very well. He sees the game very quickly, and makes some very quick small area passes that a lot of players don't ever see.
But for an 18 year old kid, it's a lot of the same story of just building strength, being able to handle grown men right away, and that'll take a little bit of time for a guy like him. Not as not as long as others, but it still takes some time and it's a good stepping stone for him to be with us, and just play against players that aren't quite ready for the National Hockey League – but are still older and stronger.
MB: Have you thought about how much this potentially weighs with the current state of the CHL-NHL agreement, and maybe a track record here for the younger players who aren't eligible yet to play, but could possibly play?
TB: Yeah, it's a topic of conversation every single time a situation like this comes up, but there's the fact of the matters is - so few and far between - there's just so few players that that can really play at the AHL level, even as high draft picks. For Shane to play NHL games this year is a marvel in itself – just how good this player is.
But I understand both sides of the argument for the NHL-CHL agreement, but it's certainly a tough situation for players like Shane. But also, it's tough to tear up an agreement just because of a few players each year.
MB: 7-3-2 in 12 games – a good run, but how good is it, and what’s the state of team so far?
TB: Yeah, I think we're pretty happy with what we've accomplished so far. I mean, we're leading the division and points per game. We've played a few games less, so I think you look at that right away and see success early. We’ve got a good team that competes every night, and they're doing all this without playing a game in our home market. So I'm very happy where our team is so far, and I think there's a lot of success that to be had yet.
MB: With the job that he's done so far and the player that he's getting, you’ve got a guy behind the bench in Dan Bylsma. The job he did in helping develop the Pittsburgh Penguins, what kind of run is he off to right now and how happy are the guys to play under him?
TB: Well, the guys are ecstatic. Obviously, he brings in some level of credibility, to his resume and what not. So, the guys here right away are excited to play for him. You see the respect he gets not only from the players, but the rest of the coaching staff and rest of our staff. He's just a phenomenal talent of a coach. He’s coached a first overall draft pick, a superstar, he's coached (Evgeni) Malkin as well. He’s got some high level talent he's coached in his life and that's excellent for Shane to go down and work with someone who's kind of been there done that with players like that.
I think it's a perfect fit.