How long will Shane Wright stay this time?

Colorado Avalanche v Seattle Kraken

Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

The Seattle Kraken recalled top prospect and center Shane Wright from the Coachella Valley Firebirds of the American Hockey League on Sunday. 

The move paves the way for another opportunity to provide Wright with valuable playing time in the National Hockey League, spending a majority of this season in the AHL. 

What we know: 

·      Wright has 20 goals in 56 games, bested among Coachella Valley rookies by only Ryan Winterton (21). 

·      His 60 points are tied with Logan Morrison for most among Firebirds rookies. 

·      Wright, who earned an exemption to play at the AHL level this season despite starting at age 19, was drafted fourth overall by the Kraken in a much scrutinized and analyzed first round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. 

·      Wright has three games this season with the Kraken and is scoreless in an average of 9:48 of ice time per game. He scored his first career NHL goal last season against Montreal, earning a goal and an assist in eight games.

Instant analysis 

The recall of Wright isn’t surprising, save perhaps a comment by general manager Ron Francis to keep Wright in the AHL in the wake of the Alex Wennberg trade, shortly before the March 8 deadline. 

Wright has clearly earned the call-up, based on an array of circumstances. His game has matured against physically mature talent at the pro level, and the numbers back it up. He’s been granted a large role on the Firebirds, produced on the power play, and delivered in crucial situations – seven of his 20 goals have been game winners or scored as first of the game. 

There’s also the fit in the NHL level – the Kraken lineup has been in flux since Wennberg’s departure, coinciding with an 0-6-2 slide before beating Anaheim in two straight this past week. There is a potential opening, with Matty Beniers and Yanni Gourde the only two constants at center over the last month. Where he fits in will be an unsolved matter likely clarified by Monday, when the Kraken visit the San Jose Sharks. It’s possible that Jared McCann moves back to the wing, allowing Wright to slide in. Or, another scenario has Morrison taking a seat in the press box, opening Wright a spot on their fourth line. 

The Kraken have been slow-playing him to the NHL level because of last season’s extremely calm waters with health, and this year’s pulling of strings to get him into the AHL level. With the Kraken realistically (but not mathematically) out of the playoff picture, they have nine games left to get final looks at players who are slated to return next season. Ryan Winterton and Morrison have been deployed with more ice time in this final stretch of the season. It's conceivable that Wright gets similar treatment.

Wright, well profiled as a potential two-way, top-six lineup star at the center position who led Team Canada to a gold medal at last year’s World Junior Championships, has three games with the Kraken this season. That already starts the countdown to when the first year of his contract kicks in. With nine games left on the slate, the Kraken can install Wright into six more before they burn a year of his three-year, entry level pact: the likeliest of how matters could likely play out.

Otherwise, the contract’s start will “slide” into next season, and he starts at the first year of his three-year deal, all over again. 

Presuming there is no miracle in store, the Kraken, at the completion of their season, then could send Wright back to the AHL for another Calder Cup Playoff run. Coachella Valley has already clinched a berth, and is nearing the Pacific Division title. 

Depending on the number of free agents the Kraken renew on their current roster or grab elsewhere in the offseason, more potential room could be awaiting Wright for next season, when he will have one pro year under his belt with a 20-goal campaign.

The next string of games, starting Monday at San Jose, to end the year could carve a very clear path on how Wright fits next season. 

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