Is Shane Wright still the first choice? What’s at stake in the NHL Draft Lottery

Shane Wright entered the 2021-22 season as the No. 1 unanimous prospect of 2022 NHL Entry draft. He was considered by many scouts as a true elite candidate, a potential star in the number one spot. After gaining the exceptional status of playing in OHL when he was just 15 years old, he immediately scored 39 goals in 58 OHL matches. He scored 9 goals and 14 points in 5 matches in the Under-18 World Championship as an underage player. He was on his way to stardom and it seemed inevitable that he would have a great trial season.

Then the season started and Wright slowly walked out the gates. He had 8 points in 8 games in the opening month of the season. It also doesn’t look particularly impressive in the games I’ve seen. Several rationales for his less than exceptional play are beginning to emerge from across the NHL, with spectators citing sample size or a missing season in 2020-21 as factors that could lead to a slow start.

It’s hard to speculate on how much the missing season will affect players’ development, but it’s worth noting that it didn’t seem to slow down. Dallas Choose White Johnston or Seattle, choose Ryan Winterton among the top scorers in OHL in points/match. Wright was strong in the second half and ended up in the top 10 of the OHL record.

Wright’s stats that come out have always been amazing, but I admit there have only been a few times when I’ve seen him and they’ve really blown me away: the opening match of the U17 Challenge and his U18 World match against Sweden. He scored a hat-trick in both. The obvious caveat here is that he was always so young that I just reasonably concluded age was the reason he didn’t consistently enjoy great games.

Despite this, those earlier views illustrate this season. I’ve talked to Scouts about what they’ve seen and seen over a dozen Kingston games, both live and via video. A common perception and thought around the industry is that Wright simply lacks the dynamic mathematical elements and skill that you normally associate with first choice. He’s an excellent and potential player in the National Hockey League, but he doesn’t have Nathan McKinnonskiing , Patrick KingMy hand, or Stephen Stamkos’ shot. Historically, I’ve seen Wright’s shot as elite, but it hasn’t looked that way this season, and in fact he’s had twice as many assists as he can. Wright is just a very competent player, which admittedly can be tedious for a first overall pick. This is why you hear Scouts highlight him as Patrice Bergeron And Ryan O’ReillyNeither was a first-round pick due to their lack of some of these dynamic elements. You could argue that this is a risky expectation for a teen when there isn’t a whole lot of talent to fulfill. However, similar descriptions of the two top picks in the 2021 draft could be used by Owen Power and Matthew Penners. My current will be comparable to Wright Notice Center Mika Zibanjad.

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Wright has been very productive this season, but compared to the level where the best CHL prospects usually are, he’s clearly not at the level you’re used to seeing in his first overall pick in terms of dominating his CHL league.

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Shane Wright’s hold on the No. 1 pick has not been challenged in part by the lack of a clear rookie player this season. Logan Cooley is an excellent prospect but has 36 points in 24 USHL games. Joakim Kemell got off to a solid start in Liiga but has since slowed dramatically, and the same can be said to a lesser degree about Matthew Savoie in WHL. Juraj Slafkovsky had a tremendous ability the Olympics All in all he has been impressive in international play the past two seasons, but despite his past few good weeks with his club, his overall production at Liiga is nothing short of great.

(Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images)

“You keep a person at the beginning generally based mostly on what they’ve done in past seasons rather than their draft season,” said one NHL executive. “I think this is dangerous.” This is a reasonable idea, and I have thought about it more than once. Most of the NHL scouts I’ve discussed with Wright admit that they don’t jump out of their first-choice seats, but they also admit that it would be their pick simply because there was no obvious alternative. There were several scouts in the first half of the season arguing with me that Logan Cooley was a reasonable replacement, but recently after Cooley didn’t shine this season. Recently, there have been scouts arguing that Slafkovsky is Wright’s main rival, with a minority suggesting that they would indeed take the Slovak wing if they had the first choice.

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Wright and Slavkovsky’s seasons aren’t over yet. Given how late the CHL playoffs are, we still have to see how Wright expands in the post-season. Could an early exit from Kingston cause more uncertainty with the first pick? What if they remove the OHL favorite Hamilton? What if Slafkovsky had a major world championship with NHL players in attendance? These are unanswered questions on the eve of the lottery.

Predictions are not guaranteed when the player reaches 18 years of age. Just because Wright doesn’t seem like the #1 pick for lights out doesn’t mean it can’t be. There are times that happened, when choosing #1 was like Nico Hescher In 2017 and Ryan Nugent Hopkins In 2011 they didn’t get you that excited and ended up predicting even though they are very good players. There were also years like 2014 in Aaron Ekblad And Patrick Kane in 2007 – the players who didn’t have the #1 consensus and ended up becoming legitimate staples. There are also years like 2020, when Alexis Lavrinier He looked like a future star, and at least for now, that hasn’t happened yet.

There are still quite a few scouts who believe strongly in Wright, and who believe he would be a true star center in the NHL and would relish the opportunity to be selected. I also personally think he represents the number one midfield, someone who could be the best 15-20 in the league. As the season progressed, there was more caution among the scouts on Wright’s show, and there are quite a few evaluators who don’t see that high side that I do.

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Wright remains the crown jewel of the team that wins the lottery. At the moment I find it difficult to see a team taking someone else like Slavkovsky because he is still close at best between the two teams and both teams will lean towards the center if it is tight. Wright would potentially become a very important player for any NHL organization he chooses. But he’s not sure if he’ll ever become a legitimate NHL star or top scorer in the league, and with lottery balls starting to spin, the story for the top of the 2022 NHL Draft isn’t fully written.

(top photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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