The Arizona Coyotes want him. The Montreal Canadiens, though they weren’t planning on it, dejectedly like the idea of him. The Ottawa Senators likely crave a player like him. Same goes for the Detroit Red Wings. Shane Wright has the whole hockey world, even those who aren’t really in the running for him, on notice. How can a young player hold so much power and interest?
Shane Wright Is The Next NHL Superstar
Who is Wright? For starters, he’s a 17-year-old kid, born on January 5th, 2004, in Burlington, Ontario. Playing down the middle as a center, Wright stands at 6’1” and 187 pounds. Across all major outlets and experts, Wright sits on the 2022 draft class throne for the best prospect. That’s Bob McKenzie, Craig Button, Dobber Prospects, Smaht Scouting, and even some smaller names, like myself.
Wright has been on the NHL radar since 2018-19, when he was 14 years old, playing for the Don Mills Flyers. In the U16 AAA circuit with Don Mills, Wright scored 66 goals and 84 assists for 150 points in 72 games. That same year, in the U16 GTHL with Don Mills, Wright recorded 31 goals and 41 assists for 72 points in just 33 games. He was the GTHL Player of the Year, for obvious reasons. Following that incredible performance, he would be a part of the Kingston Frontenacs as a 15-year-old in 2019-20 and wearing the “A” on his sweater.
Taking the OHL by Storm
Wearing the “A” on his sweater proudly with the Frontenacs, Shane Wright would score 39 goals and 27 assists for 66 points across 58 OHL contests as a rookie. He was awarded the CHL Rookie of the Year and OHL Rookie of the Year. Additionally, he was named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team, after leading the OHL in both goals and points among rookies. He was sensational. Unfortunately, COVID not only shortened his rookie campaign, but it took away his entire 16-year-old season, as the OHL was shut down for the whole year.
Playing just internationally with Canada, Wright was named the captain of the U18 World Juniors Canadian roster. There, he scored nine goals and 14 points in just five games, tying second in tournament scoring with teammate Connor Bedard. Only Matvei Michkov of Russia produced more points than Wright, despite not having a season with the OHL.
OHL’s Return and The Reintroduction of Shane Wright
With the OHL slated to return, hockey fans and scouts across the world awaited the highly anticipated return of Wright to CHL competition. So far, however, it’s been a slow start for the usually-dominant young phenom. Scoring six goals and 12 assists for 18 points across 14 games is a solid statline for just about any CHL player. But for Wright, that’s below-expectation, a nod to just how remarkable he truly is. What’s the catch, if any at all, to his slow start? Should there be reason for concern? Will anyone overtake the crown atop the 2022 draft rankings? Let’s dive deeper.
Shane Wright Scouting Report
Watching the last three Kingston games, it’s clear to see the skills of Wright on the screen. He has one of the most balanced offensive skill-sets of a prospect in quite some time. His skating is outstanding, his dual-threat playstyle in the offensive zone is deadly, and his hockey IQ pops off the screen in every game, from shift to shift. Let’s break it down.
Wright is a prolific skater. His technical ability is through the roof, as every stride is smooth, powerful, effortless and just beautiful to look at. His knee and ankle bend are about as good as you can ask for, and any NHL skating coach would salivate at the thought of working with him. Wright gathers speed and power very quickly within his first two steps, and his crossovers are clean and, for the most part, executed to a tee. He has the ability to change direction with a blink of an eye, he can execute tight turns without losing much, if any, speed, and his footwork is deceptive.
When you pair his near-perfect skating ability and high-end speed with his already solid 6’1” and 187-pound frame, you have a player who can skate through or around a defender at any given moment. That combo – size and skating ability – is exactly what every NHL general manager would dream of in a prospect.
Near-Unstoppable Offensive Skill
Wright’s bread-and-butter is on offence. Scoring at over a point-per-game at every stop he has made, it’s really not a secret. But what about his game has made him so lethal? Everything. No really, he can do everything you ask of him on offence. Want him to drive the slot and be a net-front presence for one-timers in tight, a la Brayden Point on a Tampa Bay Lightning power play? Wright can do that. Want him to play the perimeter and drive possession to grind down the opposition? Wright can do that. Want him to work on his shooting side and let off heavy shots a la Alex Ovechkin from the faceoff circles? Wright can do that. Want him to play on his passing side and work the puck into the middle either by skating the puck in himself or setting up teammates for scoring chances in high-danger areas? Guess what? Wright can do that, too.
In fact, in the last three Frontenacs games, Wright attempted 55 total passes in the offensive zone. He completed 85.45% of them, a ridiculous mark. It’s even more insane when you realize that 23.64% of his pass attempts were sent into high-danger areas, and he completed 61.54% of those passes. Wright is simply a dangerous playmaker, who has the elite vision and IQ to make all the passes necessary to set up scoring chances with consistency.
His passing numbers alone would make him a first-round calibre prospect, but his shot is even better. Firing 22 total shots across those three games, 72.73% hit the net. The bigger takeaway, however, is that 31.82% of his shot attempts came from high-danger, with 85.71% of those shots hitting the net. While that isn’t looking at the mechanics of his shot, it’s clear Wright consistently gets to the high-danger areas in the offensive zone with consistency and is always creating opportunities.
Looking at his shot in greater detail, his mechanics are excellent. He generates tons of power off his back foot, and transfers that power through his upper body, generating powerful shots almost every time he lets one off. He can get those shots off from anywhere on the ice, whether he is pressured or not. Wright’s accuracy is also deadly, and when you pair his shot with his passing ability, high-end stickhandling, high hockey IQ, and elite skating, you have a player who will be a future NHL stud.
Wright’s got the skill to be a very effective transitional player. His size, speed, IQ, and excellent stickhandling provide him with all of the tools to succeed in this area. That’s especially when it comes to entering the offensive zone, as he would have time to build up speed through the neutral zone in order to generate a zone entry. In the three games tracked, Wright was involved directly in 47 entry attempts, gaining entry successfully, with possession, on 68.09% of those attempts. Currently, that ranks him fifth among the 10 total forwards I have tracked in this class in controlled zone entry success percentage. As for exiting the defensive zone, he was involved directly in 30 attempts, successfully clearing the zone with possession on 60% of them. That ranked him tied for sixth out of those same 10 forwards (he’s tied with Logan Cooley, for now).
If he has the tools, then why hasn’t he been more dominant? Well, remember the slow start mentioned way too many times to this point? This is part of that slow start. His offensive skillset is the reason for his relatively strong statline, but his struggles in transition to this point are what is holding him back from reaching lofty expectations. Don’t get me wrong, his success rates are really solid and would rank among the best in the 2021 class. However, watching him attack the neutral zone, something just seems off. He makes simple mistakes that you would not expect from him, from questionable passes or skating into a tight spot and turning the puck over. He should turn it around, but it has been strange.
Defensive Zone Play
Coming into the year, the hype wasn’t just about Wright’s daunting set of offensive skills. There was plenty of talk about how he played a responsible two-way game. Well, he certainly does. This season, however, similar to his transitional play, he looks off. Countless times in the last three games, Wright would chase the puck carriers. While hounding the puck is generally a good trait, Wright seemingly chases them out of position on occasion, and as a center, that can lead to scoring chances against. Additionally, at five on five, he generally doesn’t possess an active stick, at least not consistently. On the whole, he knows to support the defence down low, and he has the size and skating ability to win tight races to loose pucks and defend against the cycle, effectively.
While on the penalty kill, Wright will show his true potential. He possesses an active stick and excellent positioning. He hounds the puck but doesn’t do so to the extent that he will be out of position. Plus, you can always count on Wright to take advantage of any and all mistakes made by the opposition to kick-start a break-out and offensive opportunity.
What is Shane Wright’s Potential?
It’s safe to say that Shane Wright will be an NHL player as soon as he gets drafted. When looking at previous top draft choices, like Alexis Lafreniere and Jack Hughes, there may be some concerns for first-year players. However, for Wright, he has the size that Hughes didn’t and the elite skating ability that Lafreniere didn’t. Plus, his offensive skill set trumps both forwards, arguably. That said, he could immediately become a 15+ goal scorer as a rookie. As for his ceiling, Wright doesn’t have one. His shot looks like a skill that could net 30+ goals, especially when paired with his ridiculous playmaking. Not to mention, he is an all-situations player and can be played with just about anyone. He’s a star in the making.