With each passing day, the odds of the Detroit Red Wings winning the Shane Wright Sweepstakes become slimmer and slimmer.
The worst teams have the best chances in the draft lottery to select Wright, the Kingston Frontenacs captain and No. 1-rated prospect for the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal on July 7-8, 2022.
Heading into Thursday’s game against the Washington Capitals at Little Caesars Arena, the Red Wings, led by top-six draft picks Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, are tied with the Capitals for the fifth-best record in the 16-team Eastern Conference and are climbing in the eight-team Atlantic Division with more points (16) than the two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (15).
So, it’s likely that Wright, who has been compared to former No. 1 picks and NHL superstars like Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and whose first on-ice experience in an NHL rink was as a 9- or 10-year-old with his Toronto-area atom team at Joe Louis Arena, won’t be skating at Little Caesars Arena anytime soon.
At least not in a Winged Wheel uniform.
“I can remember playing at Joe Louie as a kid,” the 17-year-old Wright said. “It was my first time playing on an NHL ice surface and actually playing a game there. I got to look up in the stands and imagine myself playing there in the NHL.”
It won’t be long before the 6-foot-1, 190 pound Wright likely puts on a different jersey and comes into Detroit as the star attraction just as McDavid did on Tuesday night when the Red Wings won for the third straight time with a 4-2 victory against the Oilers.
Ranked first overall in TSN analyst Bob McKenzie’s preseason NHL Draft projections and with fans of cellar-dwelling teams clamoring to “Go Wrong for Wright,” Wright has already broken two of McDavid’s junior scoring records and welcomes the comparisons and challenges of being a well-rounded team leader.
“He’s (McDavid) by far the best player in the league,” Wright said. “There’s a lot to learn from that but what I look at is his off-ice maturity and how he handles the media and stuff. He’s the captain, the leader and he has to deal with those difficult questions after a loss and how to manage his teammates.”
Wright’s leadership skills were highlighted at the 2021 under-18 world championships in Texas. As captain, he broke McDavid’s goal-scoring record with nine goals in five games and led Canada to its first gold medal since the 15-year-old McDavid accomplished the feat at the U18 worlds in Sochi, Russia in 2013.
Wright also eclipsed McDavid’s Ontario Hockey League record with the Erie Otters for most points per game in a rookie season (1.138 points per game compared with McDavid’s 1.048).
This year, the Frontenacs’ captain has 16 points in 12 games with the No. 9-ranked team in Canada, was just named OHL player of the week with eight points in three games and he scored the winning goal in Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout victory against the rival Ottawa 67’s.
“What I’ve noticed about great players like Shane is they’re always looking for ways to get better,” Kingston general manager Kory Cooper said. “If he feels he’s not doing well in the faceoff circle, he’s going to work on that area of his game. If he wants to hit a one-timer better, you can be sure he’s going to work on that too.
“Small details matter. He’s always getting feedback from the coaching staff, ways he can improve his game. He also cares about team first and individual accolades after that. He’ll do whatever he needs to do to make his team successful and that’s what he’s going to bring to any NHL team for that matter.”
Wright’s physical game might actually compare more favorably to MacKinnon’s hard-charging, in-your-face style. The 6-foot, 200-pound MacKinnon has averaged nearly a point-per-game in nine seasons with the Avalanche (570 points in 581 games).
“He’s (MacKinnon) the other guy I really like to watch,” Wright said. “He’s quick, strong on his feet and super physical. He’s a big body who uses his size to his advantage and has an unbelievable shot. I see some similarities between my game and his as well.”
A lot can change between now and the draft in July. Potential lottery teams like Los Angeles and Anaheim are on winning streaks like the Red Wings. The Kings have won six straight and the Ducks five in a row. Two candidates for the top overall pick, Buffalo and Ottawa, have both dropped five consecutive games.
Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman could always trade up into a draft lottery position and the Wings could fall out of favor just as easily as their three-game losing streak last week turned into a three-game winning streak, thanks to two late goals by Tyler Bertuzzi and Seider’s overtime goal to beat the Sabres 4-3.
One thing is for sure with Wright. The Burlington-born native wants to be drafted first overall on Thursday, July 7, 2022.
“It’s definitely a goal of mine,” Wright said. “It means a lot to me and I know I can achieve. As long as I do the right things and play the way I know I can, I can accomplish it.”
And what if the Red Wings win the lottery and he returns to Detroit where he skated on his first NHL ice surface?
“It would be a huge honor to be drafted there,” Wright said. “It’s such an incredible franchise, a lot of history, an unbelievable city. It would be a dream come true.”