NHL: Canadians can build the next generation around Nick Suzuki and Shane Wright

SPECIAL COLLABORATION

With the first pick of the 2022 Amateur Draft, the Montreal Canadiens are proud to…

Just a few weeks ago, the rest of this sentence left no doubt. Shane Wright has been at the top of almost everyone’s list since he was awarded Player Exceptional status as a 6th teenager, which allowed him to start his OHL career a season younger than usual.

Now the names of Logan Cooley and especially Juraj Slafkovsky have risen to prominence, raising doubts as to who the pick of the Canadian at the top of the draft will be. They are both excellent players but Kent Hughes and the CH must not lose sight of Shane Wright’s special talent.

Wright isn’t an explosive scorer à la Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, but he is a complete player capable of contributing in all facets of the game.

His rookie season was cut short due to COVID and his second season was canceled entirely. These are unique circumstances that undoubtedly affected his immediate development.

Wright was also overused by Kingston at about 23 minutes of ice time per game, in addition to playing on the power play advantage and disadvantage on the first wave. After more than a year without hockey, it’s quite a workload to ask of a player who turned 18 in January. Wright responded with 32 goals and 94 points in 63 games, 8th in scoring in the OHL.

His greatest strength is his understanding of the game: he is in the right place at the right time, both with and without the puck, and regularly sees his teammates in the pay zone. It also allows him to excel defensively as he can watch the game unfold and position himself to block a lot of passes. He keeps a stick active to javelin pucks and give opposing players a hard time.

Wright hasn’t attacked the slot as often as in previous years and passed the puck more regularly, but his shot is still very dangerous when he decides to fire. He capitalizes on his scoring chances when they present themselves, especially if he can install Kingston in the offensive cycle. He has NHL-quality shooting and while he probably won’t be a 50-goal scorer, he has the potential to hit the 30-goal plateau regularly in the pros.

Speaking of offensive cycle, Wright ranked third in slot completions in the OHL last year, behind two players who have already been drafted (Rory Kerins in 2020 from Calgary and Wyatt Johnston in 2021 from Dallas).

When entering the zone, he often decides to pass rather than shoot himself, while his two linemates are ahead of him when entering the zone, but with the quality of his off-the-rush passes. ‘, it’s far from being a negative point in his game.

Shane Wright Defensive Game Averages and OHL Rank

Wright combines this offense with the play of one of the OHL’s best defensive forwards. At 6ft 1in and 191 pounds, he’s not afraid to get physically involved to win puck duels. He excels at blocking passes and has an active stick for harpooning pucks.

The middle position has been a problem for CH since the beginning of the millennium. Slafkovsky has an impressive physique and could provide quite a winger to complete a line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, but Montreal must not be dazzled by their size.

Center remains the most important position and the Habs have a chance to form a duo upon which to build the next generation of Montreal hockey. Suzuki and Wright have both been regularly compared to Patrice Bergeron. Two leading centers who can provide quality play on both offense and defense is an opportunity Kent Hughes cannot afford to let slip.

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