The World Junior Championship ended Thursday, with Shane Wright captaining Team Canada to a gold medal in Halifax and Moncton. The morning after, the Seattle Kraken reassigned Wright back to the OHL for the rest of the season.
Now, OHL trade watch begins for Wright.
Several hockey insiders have further advanced speculation that arose during World Juniors that Wright would be traded by Kingston. If that ends up being true, he would be the third Kraken prospect to be traded before the Canadian Hockey League deadline.
This past weekend, two Kraken forward prospects, Jacob Melanson and Ryan Winterton, were dealt from their respective junior teams. Melanson was acquired by the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for a first-rounder, a second-rounder, and a prospect, and Winterton was sent to the London Knights of the OHL along with teammate Ryan Humphrey for two players and a second-round pick.
Melanson, a fifth-round pick in 2021, is 15th in the QMJHL in scoring with 25 goals and 19 assists. He’ll join a roster loaded with NHL draft prospects; Melanson is one of seven drafted players on the Phoenix, and new teammate Ethan Gauthier is projected to be a first-round pick by most public scouting rankings.
Winterton hasn’t played this season yet due to offseason shoulder surgery but is expected to make his debut on Friday against his former team, Hamilton, according to Ryan Pyette of the London Free Press. The Kraken’s third-round pick in 2021 had 46 points in 37 games last season.
Currently, the Kingston Frontenacs, who drafted Wright, hold his OHL rights and are in the middle of the pack in the standings. Ottawa, London, North Bay, Barrie, and Peterborough have been called out as teams to watch by hockey insiders.
As far as Kraken prospect synergy, the best landing spots for Wright would be London (Winterton), North Bay (Ty Nelson), or Peterborough (Tucker Robertson).
The OHL trade deadline is Jan. 10 at 9 a.m. PT.
Since Wright played in only eight games for the Kraken, the first year of his entry-level contract (ELC) won’t kick in this season. Per the NHL-CHL agreement, Wright was allowed nine games in the NHL before Seattle needed to decide whether to send him back to the OHL or burn the first year of his ELC. Wright can’t play the full season in the American Hockey League, per the same agreement.
The path to playing time in Seattle was tight for Wright before World Juniors, but it became even tighter after the Kraken claimed forward Eeli Tolvanen off waivers from the Nashville Predators.
Speaking of Wright, check this out
As mentioned above, Canada won the gold medal game against Czechia, 3-2, in overtime.
Wright played a pivotal part for Canada throughout the entire tournament, centering one of the team’s top two lines and serving as captain. He put an exclamation on his tournament with a highlight-reel-worthy goal to put Canada up 2-0.
Wright was solid, but not overwhelming, at World Juniors. Part of that comes from 2023 top prospect Connor Bedard lighting up the tournament with nine goals and 23 points and overshadowing everyone, but Wright posted a respectable stat line with four goals and seven points in seven games.
Even though he didn’t put up eye-popping numbers, there are plenty of positives to take away from Wright’s World Junior stint, according to Lassi Alanen of Elite Prospects.
Finland knocked out early by Sweden
The Finns, the other team at the World Juniors with Kraken representation, were knocked out in the quarterfinals by archrival Sweden.
Kraken forward prospect Jani Nyman finished with two goals and three points in five games, and goaltender NIklas Kokko didn’t see any action for Finland.
Thomas Milic holds down Canada’s crease
The Seattle Thunderbirds netminder took over Canada’s net and performed admirably with a .932 save percentage and lots of heroic saves in the knockout rounds.
Milic, along with teammates Reid Schaefer, Kevin Korchinski, and Nolan Allen, Everett Silvertips defenseman Olen Zellweger, and head coach Dennis Williams, bring a gold medal back to the Puget Sound.
Coachella Valley Firebirds riding long winning streak
Seattle’s AHL affiliate has been scorching hot in December and January. With their 4-2 win over Colorado on Wednesday, the Firebirds have won six straight and 12 of their last 15 dating back to the start of December.
Forwards Kole Lind, Jesper Froden, and Max McCormick boast a team-leading seven goals and 16 points each during that stretch, and defense prospect Ryker Evans has been equally productive on the blue line with 11 points.
Ty Nelson packs scoring punch
Defenseman Ty Nelson is on a nice little scoring run with two goals and 10 points over his last 10 games for the OHL’s North Bay Battalion. The shot-happy blue liner is one of the most dynamic defensemen in creating offense in junior hockey, as Sound Of Hockey’s own Curtis Isacke noted on Twitter.