François Gagnon: Shane Wright already sees himself in Montreal

DENVER – Shane Wright, Cutter Gauthier, Matt Savoie and Conor Geekie were invited by the NHL to attend Game 2 of the Grand Final between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning and were able to meet some of their idols and share the excitement that runs within them With three weeks she puts comfort that will change her life.

Not surprisingly, Shane Wright already sees himself in the uniform of the Canadians who will select the first during the session, which begins the evening of July 7 at the Bell Center and ends the next day.

“I had very good conversations with the Canadiens staff. During the evaluations that took place in Buffalo, I ate very well with the members of management. They told me about their plans to make the Canadiens a successful club and I would like to play a part in that rebuilding,” the Kingston Frontenacs center reiterated yesterday.

Note that Wright, who wears number 51 in the Frontenacs, could be selected by the Canadian 51 years after the draft that allowed Guy Lafleur, who died April 22, to revive the Habs in the early 1970s.

Well prepared by his management team and with the maturity that characterizes him, Wright assures in the same breath that he will be excited to go to the NHL, regardless of his selection rank and the team that decides to back him.

“Everything is now in the Canadian’s hands. Of course, I want to be the first player picked in the next draft because I think the skills justify that tier of picks. But I’ll be happy to end up in New Jersey or Arizona,” Wright added of the Devils and Coyotes, who will speak second and third … unless they complete a trade.

Slight favorite was Wright in the duel against the Slovak Juraj Slafkovsky, who plays for TPS Turku in Finland and caused a stir at the last Olympic Games and the World Cup. A little further behind, American Logan Cooley, a center developing as part of the US development program, completes the top 3.

Makar and Johnson: Patience is rewarded

Regardless of their draft rank, Wright, Slafkovsky, Cooley, the three other youngsters invited to Denver this weekend and the majority of those who will be called up in a couple of weeks will be looking to make the NHL as soon as possible .

However, the examples of Avalanche defenders Cale Makar and Jack Johnson show that extending one’s education at youth level, in the collegiate ranks or in a European league, as is the case with the great Slovakian, can be very rewarding.

Cale Makar, the fourth pick of the 2017 draft, was welcomed with open arms by the Colorado Avalanche as they attempted to revitalize their organization after their fourth straight playoff elimination. A seventh in eight years.

“We had a spot for Cale on our defensive squad, but he has decided to delay his arrival in the NHL. Personally, I don’t have a firm position on whether or not I should delay entering the NHL. It is case by case. But in my eyes a young player has to be able to help his team win in order to make the leap to the NHL. I don’t think there’s any point in pushing him up too fast just to give him a taste of NHL hockey,” head coach Jared Bednar said after his team’s practice Saturday morning.

The decision to extend his tenure at the university by two years has pleased both Makar and the Avalanche. Buoyed by a return to his Minutemen teammates at the University of Massachusetts and two more seasons with them, Makar literally took the NHL by storm when he joined Avalanche on the eve of the spring 2019 playoffs. With the confidence of a veteran, Makar scored one goal and scored six points in the ten games of the playoffs.

The following season, he had 50 points (12 goals) in 57 games and was awarded the Calder Trophy for NHL Rookie of the Year.

Three wins away from a first Stanley Cup, in the race for the Conn-Smythe Trophy as the team’s most valuable player in the playoffs, second – tied with Victor Hedman of the Lightnings and Roman Josi of the Predators – in the race for the Norris Trophy goes to Cale Makar today as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He completes the best back duo on the circuit to the right of work partner Devon Toews.

I also invite you to read a recent column dedicated to the Avalanche’s two star defenders.

A grand finale and a diploma as a bonus

Like Cale Makar, who shaves every player of his year who got into the NHL before him, Jack Johnson delayed his arrival in the NHL. He left the Los Angeles Kings, who drafted him third in 2005, just behind Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh and Bobby Ryan of Anaheim, two spots ahead of Canadian-picked Carey Price.

In a Saturday morning press conference, Jack Johnson indicated that the decision to remain in the university ranks was an easy one.

“As a young hockey player, my dream was to defend the University of Michigan colors. After a season with the Wolverines, I couldn’t imagine giving up that childhood dream anytime soon, especially since I didn’t feel ready to advance in the NHL.”

That’s how Johnson joined the Kings in 2007-08, after two more years that helped him better prepare for NHL hockey.

Johnson, now 35, is completing the 15th seasone season in a turbulent career that saw him file for bankruptcy in 2014 after his parents owed more than $15 million out of the $18 million the defense attorney had made to date. After making his debut with the Kings in Los Angeles and stints in Columbus, Pittsburgh and New York with the Rangers, he finally enjoyed a presence in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Avalanche, who took him to Colorado this year.

“It’s as sensational as I imagined,” he said proudly on Saturday morning.

In addition to the fact that the patience shown before joining the NHL and helping him through the trials that marked his career was finally being rewarded on the ice, Jack Johnson also displayed great patience in finally earning his college degree gain.

“It took me 18 years and after 18 years of college you’re usually a doctor. But I made it,” said the defender, who took distance classes after playoff bans or early exits and also took advantage of COVID-related breaks.

“It took me a long time to reach my goal, but now I’m a graduate of the best public university in the United States,” Johnson trumpeted with pride even more explicit than that associated with his performance at the Grand Finals.

“When I made the leap into the NHL, I set myself the goal of completing my studies. I also promised Red Berenson – who spent the first five years of his 17-year NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens – my coach with the Wolverines – that one day I would graduate. He was the first person I called when I got him,” concluded Johnson, who worked hard, particularly with his statistical math classes, to get a general science degree.

Asked by journalists about the possibility that he could benefit from an extra year in the junior ranks, like Cale Makar and Jack Johnson do, Shane Wright remained very neutral. “We’ll have to see under what circumstances I’ll find myself once I’m drafted. It’s often said that defenders take more time to develop than forwards. We’ll see,” said the hopeful, who could end up in Montreal next year.

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