Why Kraken rookie Shane Wright joining Canada for World Juniors is good

Dec 8, 2022, 10:51 AM | Updated: 10:51 am
Seattle Kraken Shane Wright...
Shane Wright reacts after scoring his first NHL goal for the Kraken against the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Two days after scoring his first NHL goal, Kraken rookie Shane Wright is gone.

The fourth overall pick in last summer’s NHL Draft hasn’t been sent back to the American Hockey League, nor is he being sent back to the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs. Instead, the center is joining Team Canada in time for the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championships, reporting to their camp on Thursday.

This is a move that has been speculated for a while as the next step in Wright’s development plan as he continues to acclimate to the NHL game. The 18-year-old center was asked about this potential at Kraken practice earlier in the week and offered nothing but enthusiasm about the prospect.

“Anytime you can represent your country on the World Junior stage, something you grew up watching, never really something you can pass up too easily,” he said at the time. “It’s definitely always a tough thing to pass up if the opportunity comes.”

The move is a positive one and will be a great chance for Wright to get playing time against tough competition. The World Juniors feature the top players under 20 in the world and Canada is going to be the favorite, giving Wright an opportunity to play high-level hockey with a ton of pressure and scrutiny.

Officially dating back to 1977, the World Juniors have been played annually, with play starting in December and finishing in early January. This year the tournament begins on Dec. 26 and ends on Jan. 5 with games being played in both Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick.

Canada has dominated the tournament, often featuring rosters of high NHL draft picks like Wright. They lead the way with 19 gold medals and 34 medals overall.

The tournament has yet to grab hold in the United States, but to our neighbors up north it’s must-watch television and has become a holiday tradition. The Canadian roster goes through a ton of scrutiny and sometimes over-the-top criticism.

Making the perennially-contending Canadian roster is tough and this year will be no different.

The current Kraken roster is filled with players who represented their countries at the World Juniors, but the guy who sits next to Wright in the locker room perhaps had the most memorable moments and knows exactly what Wright is about to experience.

Jordan Eberle represented Canada twice and became a national hero by helping win a gold medal in 2009. His huge goal against Russia that year tied a game late, and he would later convert in the shootout to advance Canada to the championship game.

Why is this good for Shane Wright?

Wright played his best NHL game Tuesday night in his first action since returning from a 14-day conditioning stint with the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds. He played with pace, created chances, and cashed in from the slot when Oliver Bjorkstrand slid a pass to him in the first period.

This was on the heels of Wright scoring four goals in five AHL games, meaning he hits the World Juniors with a ton of confidence.

He’ll get a chance to continue that playing for a stacked Canadian team that is obviously in gold medal contention again. The competition will be top-notch as well, and even though he’s already played eight NHL games, he’ll actually face older players as the tournament is usually dominated by 19-year-olds.

Wright is an exception, as is wunderkind Conner Bedard, who is most likely going to be the top pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Regia Pats phenom is going to play a lot, but will he play with Wright? The two tore up the U18 World Championships two years ago for Canada when Wright scored nine goals and 14 points in five games.

Not only will Wright play with and against top players, but being able to participate is a pat on the back as well. Wright has been scratched for most of his time with the Kraken as finding consistent playing time has been a struggle, but his attitude has been great. He shows up to practice every day with a smile on his face and with a work ethic that coach Dave Hakstol has praised numerous times. Now the team is rewarding him with this chance to represent his country in a high-profile way.

Wright has played for Canada in the past but this will be his first and only time at the World Juniors.

A small bonus is that Wright will get an opportunity to play alongside his good friend Brennan Othmann. The two buddies played on opposite OHL teams coming up and both are NHL first-round picks with Othmann selected in the first by the New York Rangers in 2021.

Unique NW hockey crossover

Players from the Puget Sound’s two junior teams joining Team Canada at the World Juniors is nothing new. Wright will be playing alongside four Seattle Thunderbirds, in addition to with and for a couple of Everett Silvertips.

The Thunderbirds will be represented at Canada’s camp by defensemen Nolan Allan and Kevin Korchinski, along with forward Reid Schaefer and goalie Thomas Milic. The Silvertips’ Olen Zellweger is in camp, and the Canadian team is being coached by Silvertips bench boss Dennis Williams.

Wright played with Milic, Zellweger and former Thunderbird Conner Roulette at the U18s, but he wasn’t a Kraken at that time so this will be a new situation. Obviously, a Kraken player has not mingled with Thunderbirds and Silvertips, giving the Canadian team a distinct Northwest flavor.

This loan gives Wright another chance at playing top-six minutes at a high level. His play of late seems to indicate that he is ready to be a Canadian star and just may come back to Seattle with more confidence and a shiny medal around his neck.

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