Photo Credit: Robert Lefebvre/OHL Images
Scouting Report written by Jordan Malette
For years, Shane Wright has been penciled in as the bonafide #1 for the 2022 draft class. He has become a household name among NHL fans, and #PainForShane is a mantra used by fans of underperforming teams to cope with the disappointment that comes with being at the bottom of the table. Unfortunately, these expectations, paired with Shane’s underwhelming production in the first quarter of the season, have created doubts about his positioning atop the 2022 class.
On a point per game basis, Wright outscored the latest benchmark for an elite 15-year-old season, set by Connor McDavid. Fast forward two seasons, and Shane is scoring around the same pace as he did as an underaged rookie. This lack of jump in production is a justified cause for concern and sparked the uncertainty around Wright. However, as the OHL has not played since March of 2020, it is more than fair to allocate a considerable portion of this underwhelming production to Shane playing a handful of games over the last 18 months.
Shane’s style of play further compounds the doubt created by the production concerns mentioned above. Generally, when we are talking about a consensus 1st overall player, the first thing that comes to mind is sheer game-breaking ability that creates an unbelievable highlight reel. Shane possesses that ability and showcases it from time to time, but it isn’t the focal point of his game. Instead, Shane is a player that’s value resides in the small details that compound over time to provide positive results to his team.
This stark contrast between what we usually expect to see from a consensus 1st overall and Shane’s detail-oriented style of play is what makes him a perplexing case to evaluate and project moving forward.
D.O.B – January 5, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –185 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Wright’s Style Of Play
At 17 years old, Shane displays numerous habits that are already on a pro-level, which is rare to find in young players. For starters, his puck touches are calculated and meaningful. Wright never tries to do too much and constantly moves the puck quickly to teammates in a better position. Wright has incredible awareness to go along with these puck habits, enabling him to pass to teammates who the opposition does not think is a likely recipient of pass. The package of methodical touches, awareness, and short possessions makes Shane an excellent puck distributor and play driver.
Wright is the primary puck carrier on his line as his decision-making and composure allow him to dictate play up ice reliably. Shane routinely stops or delays and looks for a passing option upon entering the zone. As a result, Wright enables his team to gain the zone and begin a controlled offensive possession nearly every time he leads the transition. Additionally, off the rush, he can find passing lanes under defensemen’s sticks or create a passing lane with his calculated actions, to move the puck to his wingers who are in a shooting position.
Though, seldomly do you see Shane find a lane and attack the dangerous areas of the ice. Instead, he seems to be selective on how frequently he attempts to carry it through the middle of the ice and drive the net, leading to a mixed bag of possible interpretations. On the one hand, he will not have ample time and space to drive dangerous areas every shift at the NHL level, so learning to be particular on when to pass vs. carry will pay dividends later. And on the other hand, you’d expect a player of his caliber to be able to push play into the dangerous areas more frequently in the OHL. Whichever conclusion you land on, Wright has the talent level to be more assertive with the puck and drive aggressively into open space in the offensive zone. However, he appears reluctant to do so, which may stem from a lack of confidence as he hasn’t played in so long. Some of the doubts around Wright would disappear if he were to begin leveraging his skills to create dangerous opportunities for himself on a more regular basis.
Shane Wright has a lethal shot, making him a constant shooting threat, especially on the powerplay. He doesn’t need much time or space to let it rip and can easily pick the top corners making goaltenders lives miserable. However, he needs to use it more, especially off the rush. The incredible shot in his toolbox reinforces the recommendation to attack the dangerous areas of the ice more often. If he were to combine those two more frequently, he would deliver an endless supply of goals to the Frontenacs.
Shane’s skating could be considered a concern, but it is likely reasonable to state that there are question marks in the skating department that may impact his projectability. Wright relies on body positioning to shield the puck and his methodical touches to evade pressure, and not as much his footwork. He has no issues keeping up with the play and has solid top-end speed, but he isn’t overly explosive. Rarely do you see him gain separation via surprising the defender with a quick change of pace to open a lane for himself. The concern here is what happens when he is granted less space at higher levels and can’t always rely on his body positioning to spin-off pressure and maintain possession. Possessing the footwork to deceive and escape pressure is essential to grant Wright as many options as possible against tougher competition.
It is very typical for high-end skilled forward prospects to have concerns with their off-puck play. This is not the case with Wright as, at all times, Shane provides support to the puck carrier or applies the second layer of defense. With this being said, his defensive game is a question mark in the context of projectability. He is a brilliant player, so he is always in the proper position to provide support, but Shane is rarely the player actively engaging in defensive actions and dispossessing the puck carrier. At times, it appears that Wright is simply patrolling the defensive zone waiting for a loose puck without an assignment in mind. He is perpetually providing support to the defensively engaged teammate, but his defensive actions tend to be limited. The bright side here is that as he is always in proper positioning, paying more attention to being more engaged defensively should be an easy lesson. However, his abovementioned positioning puts him in a favorable position to receive an outlet pass or scoop up a loose puck and facilitate a seamless zone exit.
Every zone exit flows through Shane, most of which are executed with perfect control. He is relied upon as the primary puck carrier as he is always making consistent, intelligent, quick decisions with the puck and can effortlessly push play out of his end into the opposition’s third. Expectedly, Shane plays a considerable amount at even strength, and as a result, the failed zone exits and defensive zone turnovers can pile up as the game goes on. More specifically, he occasionally makes questionable passes into traffic in an attempt to exit the zone. The raw number of defensive zone turnovers may seem like a significant red flag, but on a per minutes/possession basis, Wright is exiting the zone with control way more frequently than not. As he progresses to the higher levels of hockey, he will not be relied upon as the sole transition player, and his linemates will be equally capable of exiting the zone with control which will alleviate some of the heavy lifting he is currently doing.
The complicated and essential question to answer is, “What does this all mean looking forward?” There is no doubt that Shane’s attention to detail style of play combined with intelligent and quick decision-making is the start of a valuable foundation for him to continue to build on as he progresses into the NHL. However, that package of skills and habits will only take him so far when he advances to play against more intelligent and faster competition. In the OHL, he infrequently shows off his high octane offense, which reasonably has caused doubts about his offensive ceiling. At this moment in time, it is likely premature to value these concerns heavily enough to knock him off the top spot in the 2022 draft class. However, if these question marks around his offensive contributions still exist in July, it would be warranted to consider how his game will project to the NHL and if that assessment leads to a consensus 1st overall player.
The expectation for Wright (or any prospect for that matter) should not be to save the franchise or to be a generational talent, as he will most likely disappoint. A reasonable projection for Wright would be in the range of a low-end 1st line to a high-end 2nd line center, which to some may sound pessimistic in the context of 1st overall. Still, it is an essential piece to have on a successful team and is not easy to acquire. In addition, Shane will likely benefit from being paired with skilled wingers, who can allow Shane to focus on pushing play up ice to the offensive zone where his linemates can flourish. Finally, with his shot, he will surely be a continual threat on the powerplay, where he has consistently shown he can score from many angles and distances.
December 7, 2021
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Jordan Malette. If you would like to follow Jordan on Twitter, his handle is @jordanmalette.
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