The Seattle Kraken’s treatment of Shane Wright, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and one of the franchise’s prized prospects, has been equally intriguing, confusing, or, depending on how you feel about the situation, frustrating.
But this past weekend was an encouraging one for Wright, who potted four goals in the first three games of a conditioning stint with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, Seattle’s AHL affiliate.
Curiously enough, Wright didn’t tally a single assist in those three games, as one of his best skills is creating opportunities for teammates — he demonstrated that by tallying 63 assists in 62 games for the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League last season. However, Wright playing meaningful minutes, and scoring, is a positive development for the rookie forward, who struggled to crack the lineup after breaking camp with the Kraken.
“We just felt it was right to give him the opportunity to get some games,” Seattle general manager Francis told the Got Yer’ Back podcast, hosted by Pierre Lebrun and Ryan Rishaug. “He’s done that, played three games, he’s had four goals, he’s displayed an elite release on his shot. I think overall his game is getting better.”
Due to the CHL-NHL agreement, Wright can’t play the entire season for the Firebirds, and this 14-day conditioning stint will conclude after Coachella Valley’s pair of contests against the Henderson Silver Knights on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3.
What happens after that? Wright will return to the Kraken and could be loaned to Canada’s World Junior Championship team, as first reported by Darren Dreger of TSN. Canada’s selection camp begins on Dec. 9, and the tournament concludes on Jan. 1.
Kraken general manager Ron Francis mentioned on the Got Yer’ Back Podcast that the World Juniors are a possibility.
“He’ll play two more this weekend in Henderson Friday and Saturday before getting recalled, and then our plan is to get him in the lineup [for Seattle], and then we’ll make a decision on the World Juniors at that point,” Francis said. “That is an opportunity that is on the table for him to go there and play for Canada, and if we do that, that pushes the decision [of what to do with Wright for the rest of the season] down the road until January.”
If Wright goes to the World Juniors, the Kraken will have a big decision on their hands once the tournament is over. Based on the aforementioned CHL-NHL agreement, Wright can play in nine NHL games before he’s either sent back to the OHL or a year on his entry-level contract is burned. The Burlington, Ontario, Canada native has played seven games for the Kraken so far.
It’s been a turbulent rookie season for Wright, whose prospect pedigree, and the hype that comes along with that, has put a lot of attention on the 18-year-old forward and how Seattle has handled him. Wright was frequently a healthy scratch for the Kraken before joining Coachella Valley.
“I know from the outside, people have a lot of opinions and speculation,” Francis said, “But internally we’ve had those discussions, and everybody understands what we’re trying to do and everyone understands we have Shane’s best interests at heart here, and obviously the more we help him, the more it helps everybody.”
Francis has found loopholes to punt this decision as far down the road as possible before having to decide on Wright’s fate this season. As for burning the first year of his entry-level contract, Francis told Got Yer’ Back he’s not too concerned with that, referring back to how Seattle was willing to do that with Matty Beniers at the end of the 2021-22 season.
“It’s there on the horizon, but it’s not the deciding factor on whether keep him or send him back at some point,” Francis said.
Jacob Melanson on torrid pace
Jacob Melanson, Seattle’s fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, has been one of the Kraken’s hottest prospects as of late. The Acadie-Bathurst forward has 10 points in his last five games and 19 points in his last 10 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Melanson has scored nearly a goal per game, with 17 in 18 contests this year.
Jagger Firkus continues long point streak
With a goal on Tuesday night, Kraken forward prospect Jagger Firkus extended his point streak to 18 games. Firkus, a second-round pick in 2022, has 13 goals and 14 assists during that stretch.
The release on that shot, my goodness.