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Why Shane Wright is Perfect for Montreal

The Canadiens need a top-six center right away and Wright has the all-around game and the composure to help out in the high-pressure hockey mecca.
Shane Wright

Shane Wright

Now that the Montreal Canadiens have claimed the first selection overall in the 2022 NHL Draft, it's worth asking about their prize: The right to choose Kingston Frontenacs center Shane Wright.

There had been talk of someone else going first in recent days (this pretty much always happens - some people gotta feed the hype machine), but with the Canadiens in need of a top-six center, it's practically a guarantee they go with Wright.

So what are the Habs getting? In short, Wright provides a complete all-around game punctuated by a competitive drive that has propelled him throughout his young career and leadership that earned him the captaincy of Canada's world under-18 team last year when he was one of the youngest players on the squad. Oh, and at that tournament, where Canada won gold in Texas, Wright played through a hairline fracture in his foot and still tied for the team lead in scoring with 14 points in five games (fellow phenom Connor Bedard had 14 points in seven games).

But even before that, Wright was no stranger to pressure. Assuming he goes to the hockey mecca of Montreal, he's going to have a massive spotlight on him - but keep in mind, this is a kid that earned the same Exceptional Status designation to join the OHL a year early that was awarded to the likes of Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad.

"Not a lot of people get that Exceptional Status and with that comes tons of pressure at a young age," said Kingston coach Luca Caputi. "He handled that with maturity you don't really see in a 15-year-old. The way he goes about his life and how he was raised helps him stay even-keeled and focus on the important things: himself and his family. He tries to block out the outside noise as much as possible and it works to his benefit more times than not."

Wright went on to win OHL and CHL rookie of the year honors after tallying 66 points in 58 games for Kingston. So the challenge was met on that front.

With last year's OHL campaign cancelled by the province due to Covid protocols, Wright's action was limited to that world under-18s, so coming into this season was always going to be interesting. In terms of offense, Wright started off slow by outsider standards, but his coach points out that the gifted center was team-first all the way.

"I was playing him with younger guys because half the league was first-year players," Caputi said. "They weren't necessarily at the same strength level or pace and he was helping them get points. As the season progressed, those younger kids found their game and we put our older players in a cluster and that's when his production took off. No one understands how Matthew Soto and Paul Ludwinski got off to a good start - it's because they're playing with Shane Wright every night. Those are the things people don't know unless they ask. And credit to Shane, he just put his work boots on to help our team win - he never complained."

Once he started playing with the likes of Martin Chromiak (LA) and Zayde Wisdom (PHI), Wright's numbers climbed and he finished eighth in league scoring with 94 points in 63 games. In the playoffs, the Frontenacs have moved guys around for matchups and lately Wright has been with Ludwinski (a fellow 2022 draft prospect) and Francesco Arcuri (DAL), posting up 12 points in his first nine contests.

But the reason Wright projects to be such a good pro is because of everything else he does on top of points. He's the guy that takes on the tough opposition match-ups, especially on the road. He's the guy that takes the faceoff on the penalty kill and he's the guy that plays on the top power-play unit. There is still room for improvement and throughout the campaign, Caputi and his staff worked with Wright on things like faceoffs, controlling the pace of the game for longer stretches and improving his shooting accuracy.

So this summer will be a big one, but knowing Wright, he's going to continue working on all of those things. In the off-season, I had a chance to interview Wright's parents and here's what happened when his dad, Simon, beat him at golf a couple years back:

"He literally spent from July of 2020 to July of 2021 practising golf like I've never seen anybody practise golf," Simon said. "We bought him a net for the garage, so in the middle of winter he's in the garage hitting golf balls because he wanted to get better. Now, he's propelled himself from shooting in the 100s to the low 80s in 12 months. It's incredible when he gets it into his head that he wants to get better."

And considering how passionate Wright is about hockey, it goes without saying that he's going to continue doing everything in his power to be the best. That's a passion Montreal fans can start looking forward to.

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