KING | Shane Wright was the first to kickstart the conversation Wednesday during our 15-minute private chat at Leon’s Center, home of Ontario Major Junior Hockey League hockey club Kingston Frontenacs.
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“Things are going well?” he asked the representative of protocol. Is that proof that he sees himself in the Canadiens uniform next fall?
The one who is considered the first class of the next draft session on July 7 in Montreal does not budge.
“I want to be the first pick this year and I deserve that,” said the 18-year-old athlete. And it’s been a while since I think that first pick is mine.
“I don’t feel any pressure to be the best player of my generation. I’ve proven in the past that I have all the skills to be considered first,” said the 6-foot-1, 187-pound center.
After the warm-up
The Ontario forward from Burlington, a city a three-hour drive from Kingston, learned the Habs had clinched first place minutes before the start of the third playoff game his team lost to North Bay Battalion on Tuesday night.
“My head coach [Luca Caputi] called me into his office after the warm-up to tell me that the CH had won the lottery to tell Wright. I wanted to know before the game so I wouldn’t think about it during the game.
His first reaction was obviously very positive.
“Who wouldn’t want to be part of an organization with such an impressive track record and so much history?”
Outstanding Player at 15
Wright doesn’t have a crystal ball, and neither do many of the hockey analysts who have been claiming for weeks that Wright isn’t alone in the race. That a certain Logan Cooley might come in especially to mess up the cards.
Fact remains, the final call will fall to the Canadiens’ general manager.
And in all likelihood, based on information we’ve received from influential people in the hockey world over the past few days, Kent Hughes wouldn’t change his mind: Wright would still be high on the list of prospects for Montreal practice.
One wonders how the Canadian missed such an opportunity to select a player destined for a bright future in the NHL in the eyes of observers and respected recruiters.
Despite the exceptional player status he achieved at age 15 playing in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, Wright may not be the caliber of John Tavares (2005), Aaron Ekblad (2011), and especially Connor McDavid (2012), who did the have gained equal recognition in the past.
Or even Connor Bedard, a Junior League West product that every team will covet in a year.
We’re not talking about a concession player, but at the risk of repeating ourselves, Wright is the biggest talent of the 2022 vintage.
The perfect scenario
“I’m happiest when Canadians make me their first choice,” he admits. Montreal is an incredible place to play hockey.
“Actually, that would be the perfect scenario. I’ve always said I’d like to play at Bell Center with a Canadiens uniform on my back, not the opposing team’s.
“I would be very flattered to wear the colors of such a great organization to be part of the original six teams. For me it would be a dream come true.”
Wright says he loves Montreal, which he visited a few years ago for a spring tournament that he competed in.
“I love this city for its beauty, its joie de vivre and its crowd’s passion for hockey,” he says. And this media pressure that I’m told about doesn’t scare me. However, I know I must trade at my fair value.
Finally, Wright doesn’t move. His internship in the junior division is over. He wants to play in the NHL next fall.
And the number 51 he wears with the Frontenacs already seems reserved for the Canadian.