Seattle Kraken Draft: Why Shane Wright at 4 could be steal of all steals

Jul 7, 2022, 7:41 PM | Updated: Jul 18, 2022, 3:31 pm

He was supposed to be the first pick in the NHL Draft. That had been the speculation and presumption for over a year. But as the draft began in Montreal on Thursday, between the fans’ booing of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Shane Wright was passed over three times.

It may have just turned into the steal of all steals for the Seattle Kraken, who wasted no time in selecting him with the fourth pick overall.

Seattle Kraken 2022 NHL Draft tracker

The slip didn’t assuage his enthusiasm, however.

“I think that I was drafted by an NHL franchise, I was drafted by a team with a lot of potential into a great city with a great fan base,” Wright told the media Thursday. “Obviously you want to go first, every guy wants to going into the draft, but I couldn’t be happier being in Seattle. To be out there with the Kraken, I’m really excited about the future ahead in Seattle.”

Wright first arrived on the hockey radar as a 15 year old when he was granted exceptional status to play junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League a season early. The exceptional status has been reserved for the best of the best, players who were so dominant that their development would be stunted playing against other 15 year olds. The last player in Ontario to be granted the status was Edmonton Oilers superstar Conner McDavid.

That first year with the Kingston Frontenacs in 2018-19, Wright played 58 games and scored an astonishing 39 goals and 27 assists, totaling 66 points. The following year was wiped out by COVID and the OHL shut the league down, but Wright did suit up for Canada at the U18 World Championship and scored nine goals with 14 points in five games.

Is that missed season why he slipped to four?

He was good this most recent season, but perhaps not as dominant as some scouts hoped. Wright scored 32 times but had 62 assists for 94 points in 63 games, which is still pretty good. He’s got the size at 6 feet and 191 pounds, which gives him the chance to perhaps play in the NHL this coming season.

“This year was nowhere near my best,” Wright said. “I believe that I can be a lot better, I believe that I’ve not reached even close to my potential… I think that I’m still growing as a player. I’m still learning a lot about myself and learning about a lot of my game and you know, how to be the best player I can be.”

In Wright, Seattle is getting an offensive center who can score and make plays. He has a high compete level and is known for a high level of smarts and hockey IQ. The assists numbers last year show his play-making ability and scouts generally praise all aspects of his game. He’s an elite player who does everything well.

After selecting Matty Beniers to play center at No. 2 overal in last year’s draft, the Kraken are now looking at a first and second center combination of Beniers and Wright that has to have Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis and head coach Dave Hakstol smiling.

Having elite centers is a key to icing a winning hockey team, and the Kraken most likely never imagined that they would have a chance to take Wright at the fourth pick.

Coming into Wednesday night, most draft experts had Wright or Slovakian winger Juraj Slavkovksky tabbed as first overall. When the Montreal Canadiens announced it was Slavkovksy, there was a mixed reaction among the home fans at the Bell Centre.

The New Jersey Devils, who have a number of centers already on their roster, were next and surprised by selecting defenseman Simon Nemec. The Slovakian had previously been slated to be there for the Kraken at four. Nemec’s selection was followed by the Arizona Coyotes, who took dynamic American scorer Logan Cooley, which dropped Wright to the Kraken.

“We started talking about this a few days ago thinking this could be a possibility,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. “You get a guy who was ranked one in the draft for many years, just recently a change and he plays the center position, for an expansion team that’s really hard to get through the expansion draft. We now have Matty Beniers and Shane Wright at center. That sets up this franchise for the next 10 years. So it was exciting.”

The question now is how long until Wright is ready for the NHL. His original projection was that he was NHL ready now. He has the size and skill and now has a chip on his shoulder to use as motivation to show that perhaps he should have been the first overall pick.

“Definitely gonna have a chip on my shoulder from this for sure,” Wright said. “I’ve always been self-motivated, always been pushing myself internally, but it’s definitely gonna give me a little more fire for sure.”

Francis and the Kraken aren’t complaining.

Seattle Kraken aren’t finished drafting

The NHL Draft continues Friday with rounds 2-7, and the Kraken will be busy. Coming into this draft, Francis had 12 picks to play with. He has said that he would like to try and use some of his four second-round picks to make a trade.

There was no trade for the Kraken on Thursday but they could still make a deal Friday. It looks more likely like the Kraken will use those four picks, though. That isn’t the worst thing in the world, and you can find players in the second round.

“Teams are looking not only for picks but prospects, and it puts us in a little bit tougher situation. But we’re certainly looking at all those,” Francis said earlier in the week. “Whether we can move the picks for players, whether we can move the picks to move up, whether we use the picks for different things down the road. So, exploring all options and all avenues at this point to try and make us better.”

Francis will look at finding the best players available again on Friday, and at the end of the day will have increased Seattle’s prospect pipeline from six players to 18, which puts them in line with the rest of the league.

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