CALGARY It wasn’t the season Shane Wright was hoping for as it is his draft year and many are calling him the prohibitive # 1 pick.
But his game is coming now, and a major junior world tournament for Canada could make the Kingston Frontenacs Center a household name.
“Maybe I didn’t get off to the best start as I wanted, maybe a little rusty or just needed some time to get my legs under me at the beginning,” said Wright, a six-foot and 185-pound center Burlington. âBut I feel like I’ve played really well for the past month and a half, I’ve really met the standards that I’ve set for myself.
“And really just happy with how the whole season went.”
The “rust” Wright spoke of affected many players in his age group. He didn’t play at all last year because of COVID. A handful of OHL players went abroad. But Wright stayed home working on his fitness and skills.
The slow start resulted in 11 goals and 19 assists in 22 games for the 17-year-old, who will turn 18 at the Junior World Championships.
But that experience, from the five days of that selection camp to the tournament that begins on Boxing Day, promises to be a growth experience for Wright.
“There are so many talented players here, so many high-end guys, NHL draft picks and everything, so it definitely resulted in some fast-paced practice and a lot of fun,” Wright said. âThat will definitely help me a lot. Of course it’s great to play against the best players in this age group in the world.
“It will be great to show off and see what it’s like to play against these high-end players and see how I do against them and hopefully prepare for the next level in the NHL.”
Wright was a late cut from the Canadian team last year.
“It sucked,” said Wright. âI was super disappointed. My intention in going to camp was that I would make it onto this team and of course it was a huge disappointment not to make it. So I just tried to take all the positive things I could and use them as motivation to work harder and make sure that something like this didn’t happen again.
This year Wright is a castle. Wright didn’t play the weekend when Canadian hopefuls faced an all-star team from U Sports, a sure sign that he and the other Scratches – most of them already inducted into the NHL – didn’t need to worry than that inevitable cuts came before further preparations in Banff, Alta., this week.
“His talent speaks for itself,” said Canada coach Dave Cameron. âThere is a degree of maturity that exceeds most children in his age group, this maturity and simply the overall game that he brings with him.
âShane doesn’t have to rely on any aspect of his game. He’s a versatile player and I think he’s really showing it this year. He’s a game breaker. He was junior and U18 and won the gold medal. And that year he was a much more complete player with Kingston. “
He is one of two players invited to a selection camp that their league has granted exceptional status to play Major Junior at age 15. Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats is the other, a year younger than Wright. He is the first WHL player to achieve exceptional status.
“I think (Bedard is doing) a great job,” Wright said. “I went through it last year as a 16-year-old at camp … So I just try to do everything I can to help him understand better and to help him deal with these pressures and meet those expectations.”
As much as Wright can guide others, he uses the experience of the older players, especially those who were drafted in the first round, to help him take his mind off the pressures of playing in a draft year when your game is analyzed by Scouts , Managers, media and fans.
“They told me what it was like for them to go into the design process and then how their camps and interviews and all of that work,” he said. “So it was good for me to get a glimpse of what that looks like.”
The message he received from his already called-up teammates is the same: âTry not to worry too much. Obviously it is something that is still a long way off. Just concentrate on what you are doing. “
And how easy is it?
âIt can be difficult at times. It’s my design year and something I’m aware of. I have the design data in the back of my mind. I just try my best to block it out and just stay in the present and just focus on what I’m doing now. “
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