Is Shane Wright nonetheless the No. 1 decide? What’s at stake on the NHL Draft Lottery

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Shane Wright entered the 2021-22 season because the consensus No. 1 prospect for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. He was thought-about a real elite prospect by many scouts, a possible star No. 1 middle. After being granted distinctive standing to play within the OHL as a 15-year-old, he promptly scored 39 targets in 58 OHL video games. He scored 9 targets and 14 factors in 5 video games on the U-18 Worlds as an underage participant. He was on the trail to stardom and it appeared inevitable he would have a terrific draft season.

Then the season began and Wright bought out of the gates slowly. He had 8 factors in 8 video games within the season’s opening month. He additionally didn’t appear notably impactful within the video games I noticed. Numerous affordable rationales for his less-than-exceptional play began to return from across the NHL, with onlookers pointing to pattern measurement or his missed season in 2020-21 as components that might result in a gradual begin.

It’s laborious to take a position how a lot the missed season impacted gamers’ improvement, nevertheless it’s value noting that it hasn’t appeared to gradual Dallas decide Wyatt Johnston or Seattle decide Ryan Winterton from being among the many high scorers within the OHL in factors/recreation. Wright did come on robust within the second half although and ended up within the high 10 in OHL scoring.

Wright’s statistics developing all the time appeared wonderful, however I admit there have been solely a few instances after I noticed him and was really blown away: the opening recreation of the U17 problem and his U18 worlds recreation vs. Sweden. He scored a hat trick in each. The apparent caveat right here is that he was all the time so younger that I simply moderately concluded that age was the explanation why he wasn’t persistently having nice video games.

These previous viewings inform this season’s, although. I’ve talked to scouts about what they’ve seen and I’ve watched over a dozen Kingston video games, each stay and by way of video. The conclusion and customary thought across the trade is that Wright merely lacks the dynamic athleticism and talent components you usually affiliate with a No. 1 decide. He’s a wonderful participant and NHL prospect, however he doesn’t have Nathan MacKinnon’s skating, Patrick Kane’s palms, or Steven Stamkos’ shot.  I traditionally considered Wright’s shot as elite, nevertheless it didn’t look that means this season, and in reality he had twice as many assists as targets. Wright is only a very well-rounded participant, which admittedly could be boring for a primary general decide. It’s why you hear scouts venture him as Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly, neither of whom, thoughts you, had been first-round picks as a result of their lack of a few of these dynamic components. You may argue this can be a dangerous projection for an adolescent when there isn’t a really massive expertise excessive aspect to hit. That stated, related descriptions could possibly be used for the highest two picks within the 2021 draft in Owen Energy and Matthew Beniers. My present comparable for Wright could be Rangers middle Mika Zibanejad.

Wright has been fairly productive this season, however in comparison with the place high CHL prospects often are, it’s clear he’s not on the stage you’re used to seeing of a primary general decide by way of dominance of his respective CHL league.

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Shane Wright’s grip on the No. 1 decide has but to be challenged partly as a result of lack of an apparent riser this season. Logan Cooley is a wonderful prospect however has 36 factors in 24 USHL video games. Joakim Kemell bought off to a scorching begin in Liiga however has since slowed down significantly, and the identical could be stated to a lesser extent about Matthew Savoie within the WHL. Juraj Slafkovsky had an amazing Olympics and general has been spectacular in worldwide play the final two seasons, however regardless of a very good previous couple of weeks together with his membership his general Liiga manufacturing is nothing wonderful.

(Robert Lefebvre / OHL Pictures)

“You’re retaining a man at first general primarily based totally on what he’s completed in previous seasons and never in his draft season,” stated one NHL govt. “I feel that’s harmful.” This can be a affordable thought, and it’s one I’ve thought-about greater than as soon as. Most NHL scouts I’ve mentioned Wright with admit they’re not leaping out of their seats for him on the No. 1 decide, however in addition they admit he could be their decide merely as a result of lack of an apparent alternate. There have been a number of scouts within the first half of the season arguing to me that Logan Cooley was a believable different, however much less so these days after Cooley didn’t gentle it up this season. Recently there have been scouts arguing Slafkovsky as the principle challenger to Wright, with a minority suggesting they might certainly take the Slovakian winger if they’d the primary decide.

Wright and Slafkovsky’s seasons usually are not over but, although. Attributable to how delayed the CHL playoffs are, we nonetheless must see how Wright fares within the postseason. Might an early Kingston exit trigger extra uncertainty with the No. 1 decide? What in the event that they unseat OHL favourite Hamilton? What if Slafkovsky has an enormous World Championships with NHL gamers in attendance? These are questions which are but to be answered on the eve of the lottery.

Projections when a participant is an 18-year-old are not any assure. Simply because Wright doesn’t appear like a lights-out No. 1 decide doesn’t imply he can’t be. There are occasions that has occurred, when a No. 1 decide like Nico Hischier in 2017 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 didn’t get you that excited and that ended up being predictive regardless that they’re superb gamers. There have been additionally years like 2014 in Aaron Ekblad and Patrick Kane in 2007 — gamers who weren’t consensus No. 1s and ended up changing into legit foundational items. There are additionally years like 2020, when Alexis Lafreniere appeared like a future star and, a minimum of up to now, that hasn’t occurred but.

There are nonetheless fairly a couple of scouts who’re massive believers in Wright, and who suppose he’ll be a real star middle within the NHL and would relish the chance to pick out him. I additionally personally consider he tasks as a primary line middle, somebody who generally is a high 15-20 middle within the league. Because the season has progressed, although, there was extra warning amongst scouts in projecting Wright, and there are fairly a couple of evaluators who don’t see that prime aspect I do.

Wright stays the crown jewel for the staff that wins the lottery. At this present second I’ve a tough time seeing a staff taking another person like Slafkovsky as a result of it stays shut at finest between the 2 and groups will lean to the middle if it’s tight. Wright will probably develop into a vital participant for whichever NHL group picks him. However he’s no certain factor to develop into a respectable NHL star or a high scorer within the league, and because the lottery balls start to swirl, the story of the highest of the 2022 NHL Draft has but to be totally written.

(High photograph: Claus Andersen / Getty Pictures)

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