MONTREAL – Shane Wright made it clear as a blue-sky July day in Montreal.
He wanted to go first.
He wanted to learn French.
He wanted to be a Montreal Canadien.
So, as Wright sat with his family and friends and waited… and waited… and waited once more, watching as Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec, Logan Cooley all snatched their moments before the projected No. 1 got up from the Bell Centre bleachers, he reminded himself that this was beyond his control.
“I mean, obviously, you picture that in your mind. You picture your name being called first and walking up to the stage, pulling on that jersey — especially with the draft being in Montreal and them picking first,” Wright admitted, still processing some mixed emotions.
“I’m definitely gonna have a chip on my shoulder from this for sure. Definitely a little more motivation. I’ve always been self-motivated. Always been pushing myself internally, but it’s definitely gonna give me a little more fire, for sure.”
Wright’s return to Bell Centre should be appointment television.
Credit the confident prospect for answering a series of questions about his stunning tumble down the ladder.
The newest member of the Seattle Kraken spoke about the potential one-two punch he and 19-year-old centre Matty Beniers will provide the expansion franchise in the future, how he is already familiar with assistant coach Paul MacFarland from his time with the Kingston Frontenacs, and how he tried to mentally prepare himself for whatever might happen on an unpredictable draft night.
“Just tried to stay as calm and cool as possible,” Wright said of his buzzing mind through picks 1 through 3.
“I got drafted to the NHL. I think that I achieved that lifelong goal of mine. I achieved that dream of being drafted and to an amazing team in Seattle,” Wright said.
“I was drafted by a team with a lot of potential, into great city with a great fan base, and obviously you want to go first… but I couldn’t be happier being in Seattle, couldn’t be happier with being a Kraken, and really excited about the future ahead in Seattle.”
Wright said he sensed Kraken GM Ron Francis was even a little surprised he had slipped into his lap. The 18-year-old had dinner with a couple of Kraken scouts last month but had not heard from the organization since the combine.
The centreman wondered about fit.
Montreal went with big winger Slafkovsky, in part, because it had a trade for young Chicago centre Kirby Dach in the works. And the New Jersey Devils opted for defencemen Nemec, in part, because they already have young pivots with high ceilings.
“I think that those traits maybe led them to not pick a centreman. Obviously, Kirby Dach being a high-end centreman and someone who’s established himself as a high-end NHL player,” Wright said, “That’s what Montreal felt was the best move for them, and that’s what they did.”
Wright’s development — and, consequently, his draft stock — took a hit with the OHL shutting up shop in 2020-21 due to the pandemic and his decreased production.
Wright scored 39 goals in 58 games for the Frontenacs as an under-ager in 2019-20 and 32 in 63 games this past season.
The phenom threw down 94 points and still was not happy with his pre-draft performance.
“Not even close. No. This year was nowhere near my best. I believe that I can be a lot better,” Wright said, determined. “I haven’t reached even close to my potential, and I think that I got a lot of work to do.
“I made a lot of mistakes this year, had some failures and faced a lot of adversity in myself and my game. But I think that I’m still growing as a player. I’m still learning a lot about myself and learning a lot about my game and how to be the best player I can be. So, I think that’s definitely something that I’ll improve on for sure.”
Let that fire burn.