The OHL is rolling out its awards this month and rookie of the year was a pretty easy one to guess. Kingston Frontenacs center Shane Wright led the league in freshman scoring with 39 goals and 66 points in 58 games, putting him 24 points clear of Peterborough's Mason McTavish. Wright also took the Frontenacs team scoring crown in the process. Oh, and because he earned Exceptional Status to play a year early, he did it all as the youngest player in the OHL.
So Wright (who isn't eligible for the NHL draft until 2022) has another trophy to add to his collection, but he's already thinking ahead to more hardware - preferably of the team variety.
Thanks in large part to Wright and linemates Zayde Wisdom and Martin Chromiak, the Frontenacs overachieved this season, capturing a playoff spot before the regular season was halted. Of course, that post-season was also cancelled, so Kingston never got to play in a series.
"Our end goal was to make the playoffs," Wright said. "It didn't end the way we wanted it to, but I'm excited for the future."
Next year should be an intriguing one in Kingston. The Frontenacs recently fired coach Kurtis Foster, eventually replacing him with Paul McFarland - who is making his second career stop in Kingston. McFarland had been an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs this year, while holding the same role with the Florida Panthers for two years before that. Prior to his NHL stint, he had been Kingston's bench boss for three years.
"Coach McFarland will really help us," Wright said. "We're a young group, but we gained a ton of experience this year. I can tell he's an intense coach and a smart guy. He really wants to win and that's important for us."
McFarland had some pretty good years in Kingston and he was a very young bench boss at the time (he's only 34 right now). With Wright, Wisdom, Chromiak and 2021 NHL draft prospect Francesco Arcuri, he'll have a very nice offensive foundation to build off next season. The fact Wright has already gotten his feet wet will undoubtedly be a huge advantage heading into 2020-21. The youngster heeded advice to play within himself and trust his teammates this season while learning how to adjust to the speed and physicality of the OHL. Playing against NHL draft picks each game only honed his skills further.
"Play my game, don't try to be someone I'm not. Stick to what I'm good at and don't try to win every single game myself - trust my teammates, trust my coaches."
Most promising is that the youngster continued to pile up points late into the season; he didn't flag under the pressure of the campaign. That certainly helped Kingston get into that playoff position.
"When the games were getting more important, I felt I had to step up my game," he said. "I felt the team stepped up as well."
Assuming the OHL plays a full schedule next season, it wouldn't be shocking to see Wright aim for 100 points. The kid is that talented and the talent surrounding him will be even better, too. The Frontenacs knew they were getting a phenom in Wright and with rookie of the year honors locked up, it's time for him to take on the next challenge.