When the Coachella Valley Firebirds lost to the Hershey Bears in Game 7 of the AHL Calder Cup Finals last week, it also marked the end of Shane Wright’s long, winding season.
Wright’s first season with the Kraken organization started off rocky. He made the NHL roster out of training camp but then played just 13 total hockey games over a 70-day stretch. Eight of those were in the NHL, where he averaged just 8:29 of ice time. Many armchair experts were calling for his return to his junior team, and after being loaned to Team Canada for the World Junior Championship, Wright would eventually be sent back to the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL on Jan. 6. From the outside, it was looking in the early stages like the Kraken had botched Wright’s development out of the gate.
As 2022-23 went on, though, Wright ended up playing a lot more hockey across various levels, making up for the early season lapses. How did his season stack up against other players in his position over the past decade? We dug into the numbers to find out.
Looking at the breadth of the season
The season might have started off slowly for Wright, but he finished with 70 total games across the NHL, AHL, OHL, and World Juniors, thanks in large part to 23 AHL playoff games with the Firebirds. Is 70 games a lot for a player of Wright’s caliber and age? How does that compare to another player’s first season after being drafted?
Since 2013, 51 players have been drafted in the top 10 out of the CHL. When we isolate those 51 players, we can look at the number of games played across all leagues for those players.
Wright ended up just five games off the median number of games played (75) for this cohort, which is fine, especially considering how this season started for him.
Points per game
Games played is one thing, but how did Wright play in those games? Unfortunately, the data across non-NHL leagues is fairly limiting with just high-level stats for individual player performances, so the best we can do across all leagues is points per game. Wright scored .91 points per game.
Again, how does that stack up across his peer group? To compare Wright to his contemporaries on a points-per-game rate, we will need to filter the original 51 players to just forwards. That gives us 38 players to look at for a comparison.
On the surface, Wright’s output looks below average, ranking 23rd out of the 38 forwards in his peer group, but we should dig deeper on that. Remember that over half of Wright’s games played were in either the AHL (31 games) or NHL (8 games). Being that the NHL and AHL have stiffer competition compared with World Juniors and the OHL, Wright’s production was unsurprisingly lower when playing at pro levels. If we exclude the AHL and NHL games from the data, we get a bit of a different picture.
Wright ranks 13th out of the 32 remaining players when excluding AHL and NHL games. This still doesn’t give us the whole picture, though, because players skewed in different directions depending on their development paths. Connor McDavid, for example, didn’t play any games in the CHL in his first season after being drafted, yet he shows up with 0.9 points per game in games played outside the NHL and AHL. McDavid’s only non-NHL games after being selected No. 1 overall in 2015 came from the IIHF World Championship, where he was competing with NHL players.
Players in the AHL under 19 years old
It is very rare for a prospect under 19 years old to spend any significant time in the AHL. This is partly due to the NHL-CHL development agreement and partly because it’s rare that these players are physically ready for the AHL. The pandemic-impacted season of 2020-21 gave us an unusual influx of under-19-year-old players in the AHL. If we isolate these players that were under 19 to start the season, we get a small sample to help evaluate Shane’s performance.
On a points-per-game basis, Wright landed right in the middle at .469 during the 2022-23 season, which includes the playoffs. Of course, even this has some nuance. 75 percent of his games came in the playoffs where scoring is more difficult. Shane Wright averaged .750 points per game during the regular season but only .375 during the playoffs.
Next year will be huge
Simply evaluating games played and points per game is far from a complete analysis of Wright’s body of work this season, but despite how the season started, there are some encouraging signs. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft was still able to play close to the average number of games this season with 32 of those coming in the AHL. This should be considered a bonus to his development year, being that he technically wasn’t even eligible to play at that level. It is still unclear if the AHL is an option for Wright next season, but he has proven that he can compete at that level, which might be the best place for him if he is allowed to go there in 2023-24.