We were surprised but not shocked to hear Juraj Slafkovsky’s name get announced Thursday as the first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. We were more surprised, but—based on organizational needs—still not shocked to also see the New Jersey Devils pass over the player that was widely expected to be the top pick, instead selecting defenseman Simon Nemec. But did we think Shane Wright would still be available to the Seattle Kraken when they went on the clock with the No. 4 overall pick? Absolutely not.
Before Thursday, never in our wildest dreams did we expect to see Wright donning a Kraken jersey. And yet, somehow, by some stroke of incredible luck, that’s what happened. The superstar center from the Kingston Frontenacs—who has 160 points in 121 career OHL games, was granted “exceptional status” to move up to the major junior ranks at age 15, and notched 14 points in just five games for Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championship—is the newest member of the Seattle Kraken.
How did Shane Wright drop to the Kraken?
“Christmas came early,” director of amateur scouting Robert Kron quipped. “You have a player that two years ago was talked about as a slam dunk, and I don’t think he’s changed that much, so we’re very excited to have him.”
Everything had to break right (Wright?) for the Kraken to end up with Wright, who landed at No. 1 on the Sound Of Hockey Composite Big Board.
Here’s how we think it shook out this way. Slafkovsky had recently gained some traction as potentially taking the top slot, so that’s an understandable pick by the Habs. Then, we figure Nemec at right defense was a better choice for the Devils, who are already stacked with young centers in Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Dawson Mercer, and Pavel Zacha. Why did the Arizona Coyotes choose Logan Cooley over Wright? The explanation we came up with is that Cooley could have higher upside, simply because he’s physically less developed than Wright, and the Coyotes are far from being in “win now” mode. So, from their perspective, there was no need to take the player most ready for the NHL, and they instead opted for the guy who could become a star in a few years.
Either Cooley or Wright would have been great picks for the Kraken, but Wright seems to be an even bigger steal. Whether Montreal, New Jersey, and Arizona regret passing on such a touted prospect like Wright remains to be seen, but for the Kraken, this feels like an enormous win.
Wright joins Matty Beniers as a second elite, young centerman in the Seattle organization, and together, it’s easy to envision a spectacular one-two punch anchoring the team’s top six for many years to come.
“Not a bad way to start a franchise, with Matty Beniers and Shane Wright as your one-two centermen,” general manager Ron Francis said. “So it’s good for the Kraken, and we’re excited about it.”
Not bad at all, Ron. Not. Bad. At. All.
Trades add to Draft Day tension
Just as the Kraken were about to go on the clock, and just as it was revealed that Seattle would have a crack at Wright, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, accepting yet another onslaught of relentless boos from the Montreal crowd, announced that two trades had been consummated. Kraken fans everywhere held their collective breath, as Bettman shared that the host Canadiens had acquired Kirby Dach from the Blackhawks and sent Alexander Romanov to the Islanders.
Thankfully, the trades did not involve Seattle. Of course there was still a chance the team could galaxy brain its pick and also pass on Wright. But to the credit of Francis, Kron, and staff, the Kraken didn’t overthink things and snagged perhaps the best all-around player in the draft.
A local flair to the opening round of the NHL Entry Draft
The trades of Dach and Romanov came on the heels of an earlier blockbuster that sent Alex DeBrincat from Chicago to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the Nos. 7 and 39 picks, as well as a third-rounder in 2024. Between DeBrincat and Dach, that’s two terrible deals for the Blackhawks in one day, and frankly, we have no idea what that franchise is doing right now. Perhaps they’re getting a jump on the 2023 Connor Bedard sweepstakes? We digress.
Interestingly, that No. 7 pick ended up being used on Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Kevin Korchinski. Korchinski played a huge role in Seattle’s run to the WHL Championship Series. He’s a smooth-skating puck mover that landed at No. 13 on the SOH Composite Big Board. Our own Andy Eide profiled Korchinski back in March, so give that a read if you want to learn more about the touted local prospect, who should be back at accesso ShoWare Center with a stacked Thunderbirds team next season.
Speaking of that stacked team, Finnish-Canadian forward Brad Lambert, whose CHL rights were recently acquired by the Thunderbirds in a trade with the Saskatoon Blades, dropped all the way to No. 30, where he was plucked by the Winnipeg Jets. Lambert is offensively gifted and at one time had been ranked much higher on draft boards, but his stock slipped after limited production this season in Finland’s Liiga.
Another Thunderbird, Reid Schaefer, snuck into the first round, getting selected No. 32 overall by the Edmonton Oilers. He was also profiled by Andy in May.
So, for those of you counting at home, that’s potentially three first-round picks that could suit up for the T-Birds next season.
Moments of levity
As always at a live NHL Entry Draft, there were a few comical moments Thursday.
First, how about Maveric Lamoureux’s parents getting after it?
Second, his friend’s haircut aside, Isaac Howard dropped a few jaws with his white suit, turtleneck, chain necklace, and American flag belt buckle.
After he was selected No. 30 overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Howard told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan that he dressed that way because he’s the best looking player in the draft.
And finally, we do have to call out Morgan Geekie’s younger brother, Conor, who got snapped up by the Coyotes at No. 11. The younger Geekie nearly tumbled head over heels en route to the stage, but showed impressive balance and managed to regain his footing in the nick of time.
Lots more to come Friday
The Kraken still have 11 picks left to make Friday, including up to four in the second round, barring trades. There are lots of great players left out there, as highlighted here by our good friend, Chris Peters.
Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at Sound Of Hockey and the host, producer, and editor of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is an inconsistent beer league goalie who believes that five players have to make a mistake before the puck gets to him. Follow him on Twitter @DarrenFunBrown or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Chesley, Seamus Casey… trade up to take those two and call it a day.