With the 2022 NHL Draft less than six weeks away, top prospect Shane Wright took some time to chat with Montreal Hockey Now’s own Marco D’Amico on this past season, his growth and what he feels he needs to accomplish this summer in order to make the NHL at training camp.
The 18-year-old center spoke at length about his desire to be selected at No.1 and what he feels he can bring to a winning culture. Going over some tough questions regarding his past season and what he feels he needs to improve on to get to the next level in his development, Wright goes into detail to shed light on what was an unorthodox road to the NHL Draft for a potential 1st overall pick.
Breaking down Shane Wright’s Season
Wright began by walking us through his draft year this past season, immediately pointing to his disappointing first half for the Kingston Frontenacs. After coming back from 18 months of inactivity, Wright recounted how he struggled early on to find consistency and get back to his usual pace and how he was able to find his bearings as the season went on.
“I’ll definitely be the first to admit that you know it wasn’t the best start of the season for me personally, and I definitely wasn’t playing how I believe I can play,” said Wright about his slow start to the season. “I feel like as the season went on, as we got deeper in the season, I felt like I really started playing well; playing to the level that I believe I can play. By the end of the year, I was really at my peak and I’m happy overall with how it went and really excited about what’s ahead.”
Unlike most 1st overall picks, Wright was used in a far more team-oriented role that didn’t necessarily optimize his usage for maximum offensive output. Instead, coach Luca Caputi tasked Wright with onboarding two rookies in the OHL in Paul Ludwinski and Matthew Soto and kept them on his wings for the first half of the season. During this time, Wright’s line was also put up against the best lines of the opposition, challenging Wright to play both a mentor role and pay more attention to the defensive side of the game to compensate for the learning curve of his younger linemates. Despite this fact, Wright’s underlying numbers are superior to the grand majority of prospects eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft.
“Yeah, obviously a lot of responsibility. Those two guys were both fifth overall picks in the OHL. so you know definitely high-end players, but it was their first year in the OHL. They’re still rookies and are still new to the league, and so I think Luca (Caputi) wanted to trust me, and kind of bring them along with me and teach them a little bit. It’s just kind of showing them what it takes to be in the OHL and be a top player and produce in this League. Over the course of the year, those two really grew and developed a whole lot as players and people as well. I really loved playing with both of them; really unbelievable teammates as well.”
There has been criticism in regards to Wright’s game over the last year. Concerns regarding Wright’s intensity on the ice and his lack of dynamism have prompted some within the scouting world to reconsider his top potential and even rank Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky higher on their boards in consequence, given his never-ending motor and skills. Wright didn’t shy away from the critique, but rather embraced the perceived hole in his game and already had a plan in place to work on those aspects this summer.
“I can be a little more eager. I think I actually agree with that, I think it’s something that, looking back on this year, I could actually improve on a little bit more, but, like you’re saying that’s the type of game that I play is more methodical. I’m kind of thinking ahead in the game a little bit, thinking about where the puck is going to be in the right position. I was playing against the other teams’ best players on most shifts, so I would also have to be aware of them and when you’re trying to win, I don’t want to take unnecessary risks to have the puck end up in the back of our net.”
Contributing To A Winning Culture
Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has said that he’s not only looking to draft the top talent in this draft, but also looking for a player that will help in building a winning culture with the club. Wright feels he can contribute to that kind of a turnaround, sighting his work with the Kingston Frontenacs over the last three years, as well as his own personal traits that he believes make him a viable candidate for the job.
“I believe that I can bring that winning culture to any room. I know with my passion and my intensity, I’m a guy who’s competitive and wants to win every game; I hate losing. In my first year in Kingston, we lost quite a few games and that was tough on me, but I think we grew that culture over that time we had off, on zoom calls and all that, and we brought that into this season and we had a substantially better year than we had two years ago. I think I can help bring that culture. I was named Captain as well, so my coaches and teammates also trusted me to lead the charge and be that role model for everyone and lead by example. I think that’s something that I do is I lead by example; I lead through my effort and my work ethic, so that’s something that you know I’d bring to any team that I play for.”
Ranked No. 1 on the Montreal Hockey Now 2022 NHL Draft Rankings, the young center feels that he hasn’t yet scratched the surface of his potential and has lots of room for growth and improvement. He plans to spend the summer training hard and get ready to make an immediate impact on whichever team selects him on July 7 at the 2022 NHL Draft.
Here is the full interview with Shane Wright below.