Ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft, prognosticators had Shane Wright going to the Montreal Canadiens first overall. As we know he fell to the Seattle Kraken, all the way to fourth overall.
So, all eyes have been on Wright in the early-goings of his NHL career. Was it the right decision for Montreal? Will the Kraken get a steal of a player? It will take a few years to see how this really plays out.
So far in Wright’s rookie year, his early-season report card is disjointed. He has one assist in five games and is being used in a depth role for the Kraken. He’s been a healthy scratch twice. His average time on ice log ranges from just six to eight minutes per game and he isn’t being used on either the penalty kill or power play.
The debate has begun as to whether or not Wright would benefit from being sent back to Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League. Given his age the Kraken do not have the option of loaning him to their AHL affiliate Coachella Valley.
When I break down Wright’s game, I’m seeing a young player who is plenty quick and fast enough to be playing in the NHL. He tracks up and down the ice and keeps up to the game with ease. He appears to be in NHL shape. I don’t believe fitness is an issue.
I do have some concerns overall however. For someone who had been compared to some of the best 200-foot players in the NHL leading up to the draft, he is struggling to identify where to be when tracking back. He is getting caught puck watching, which results in him losing contact with his check in his own zone.
Offensively, he is rarely handling the puck and has only directed seven shots on goal. He’s around the play in the offensive zone, but he has not been a threat to score or make plays.
It’s unlikely the Kraken will be a playoff team this season. The last thing any organization wants to do is have one of their building blocks lose his way early in his career.
In my opinion, Wright would be best suited for the AHL, but since that is not an option (and unless something drastic changes), it’s best for him to head back to Kingston. He will have a chance to log big minutes in all situations and play for Team Canada at the World Juniors. Getting sent back will sting for a bit, but in the long run it’s better than playing a depth NHL role and spending time in the press box.
Matty Beniers, Seattle Kraken
Sticking with Seattle rookies, the story for Matty Beniers is very positive, with two goals and three assists in seven games.
Beniers has been skating in a top six forward role. He’s being used at even strength and the power play, with some clean up duty on the penalty kill mixed in as well. His average time on ice has ranged from 16 to 21 minutes, depending on in-game scenarios.
There are some holes in his game defensively, but it takes time for young players to learn the details of defensive zone play in the NHL.
On the power play he handles the puck from the weak side flank. The puck always seems to go through him, and he’s making plays.
Beniers looks confident. He’s a threat off the rush, recognizes where to find time and space and goes to the crease to clean up loose pucks.
It’s early, but Beniers looks like a player who will be in the Calder Trophy conversation.
WEEKLY UPDATE AROUND THE WORLD
Some names are starting to appear on the radar as potential free agent targets, while others have established themselves as legitimate prospects for the NHL club that selected them.
Dmitry Rashevsky, FWD, Moscow Dynamo, KHL
Drafted: Winnipeg Jets, Fifth round in 2021
Rashevsky is taking his game to another level this year in the KHL. Through the first 21 games of the schedule, he has produced nine goals and eight assists.
He’a bit gangly, but skates well enough to get from point A to point B on time. He stands 6-foot-1, but only weighs 174 pounds, so added strength is required for the NHL game.
His element is offence and he’s equal parts playmaker and goal scorer. His defensive zone commitment and detail is average, though. He is used primarily at even strength and the power play for Dynamo.
As with any Russian player, his contract status will determine whether he comes to North America. The Jets have a really good prospect on their hands, one that could add another layer of offence to their NHL roster in time.
Rickard Hugg, FWD, Skelleftea AIK, SHL
Undrafted Free Agent
Hugg’s game has been building over the past couple seasons. His point production has grown year over year, from 13 in 2019-20, to 17 in 2020-21, and 40 points last season.
He’s off to a solid start this season, too, scoring five goals and seven assists in his first 13 games.
Hugg spent time in the OHL playing for the Kitchener Rangers from 2017-2019. In his final season he produced 33 goals and 40 assists, but was passed over in the NHL draft.
I’m not sure his pace is high-end enough for the grind of the NHL game, but he has some attractive skill attributes.
Hugg has a fantastic release and he gets the puck off his stick quickly and accurately. He also knows how to find “quiet” ice, leaving him unchecked in the process.
His development path is similar to current Detroit Red Wing forward Pius Suter who went undrafted after playing for Guelph in the OHL. Suter found success in Europe, which led to Chicago signing him as a free agent.
Dominik Bokk, FWD, Lowen Frankfurt, DEL
Carolina Hurricanes (Signed)
Bokk was originally selected in the first round of the 2018 draft by the St. Louis Blues. His rights were traded to Carolina as part of the deal that landed defenceman Justin Faulk in St. Louis.
Bokk is a bit of a polarizing prospect. He’s bounced around, playing in the AHL, SHL, and DEL over the past four seasons.
Bokk has an elite release. When he handles the puck in the offensive zone he is looking to get it to the net almost every chance he gets. But his playmaking is average.
Bokk plays the game quick and fast, and can be a threat off the rush.
Defensively he has improved his detail. I appreciate he is more dialed in away from the puck. He is generally above the play in the offensive zone and takes away plays in his lane in the defensive zone.
So far this season Bokk has scored nine goals and six assists in 13 games. He is used at even strength and on the power play.
It’s taking time, but Carolina has structure at the NHL level and players who will assist with Bokk’s development when he arrives. I like his game more today than I have in the past. He still has a chance to be a productive NHL player.
David Reinbacher, D, Kloten, Swiss National League
2023 NHL Draft Eligible
Someone who has come on my radar with his recent play in the SNL.
Reinbacher is a good sized (6-foot-2, 187 pounds) right shot defenceman who is being used in all situations. He’s averaging just under 20 minutes of time on ice.
He’s reliable in his zone, reads the play very well, and closes on opponents with his long reach and big frame taking away time and space. He’s also not shy about engaging physically.
I’m not sure he will see an NHL power play, but he is a capable distributor who shoots the puck accurately from distance.
Reinbacher skates well on straight lines. He will need to improve his edges and pivots/continuation pace as he matures. Right now, he looks to be tracking as a top 64 pick for this draft.
Michael Misa off to “exceptional” start
Being granted “exceptional status” in major junior provides a unique opportunity. The OHL has, in the past, granted this status to Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Sean Day, and Shane Wright.
Michael Misa became the sixth prospect to be granted status this past spring and he is off to an “exceptional” start to his OHL career.
Through his first 10 games in the OHL, Misa has scored eight goals and six assists, and sits fifth overall in league scoring. He’s tied with New York Rangers first round pick – Brennan Othmann of the Flint Firebirds – for the goal scoring lead.
Misa displays confidence and skill beyond his years. The 15-year-old is a top line forward at even strength. He rolls over the boards on Saginaw’s first power play unit as well. There will be some growing pains over the course of his rookie season, but there is no question his elite offensive element is already raising eyebrows around the league.