Burlington’s Shane Wright joins OHL contender Windsor after world junior gold

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Published January 9, 2023 at 9:55 pm

Wright 51 is jetting off to Windsor. Burlington’s Shane Wright will shoot for the world junior gold-OHL title-Memorial Cup championship hat trick with the Windsor Spitfires, according to multiple reports on Monday.

The centre, whom the Seattle Kraken selected fourth overall in the 2022 NHL draft, formally returning to the Ontario league amplified excitement about the league’s trade deadline on Tuesday. Wright captained the gold medal-winning Team Canada at the world junior hockey championship in Nova Scotia, marking his 19th birthday by scoring a goal in Canada’s 3-2 overtime win against Czechia in the final on Jan. 5. Seattle assigned Wright to his original OHL team, the Kingston Frontenacs, the following day, making a trade possible.

To get Wright, the Spitfires anted one rostered player, 17-year-old wing Ethan Miedema, the OHL playing rights of 17-year-old American defenceman Gavin McCarthy, and seven OHL priority selection choices (two conditional). Only one of the picks headed to Kingston is in the second round (a 2023 selection that belongs to the Ottawa 67’s, so likely around No. 40 overall). Kingston’s guaranteed return also included a third-rounder this spring, a fourth and a sixth in 2024, and a fourth in ’25.

Miedema, listed at six-foot-four and 200 pounds, is also a one-time No. 4 overall selection — in the 2021 OHL draft. McCarthy, a former United States under-17 team player, is playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the United States Hockey League and is committed to Boston University in U.S. college hockey.

The first Wright-to-Windsor report was from The Athletic.

Wright was the presumptive favourite to be chosen No. 1 in the ’22 NHL draft, although his development arc in Kingston was likely affected by the OHL’s pandemic shutdown from March 2020 until October 2021. The Montreal Canadiens used the first selection to take left wing Juraj Slafkovsky, and Wright was still available when Seattle GM Ron Francis and his staff went to the podium three choices later.

The second-year Kraken are in a playoff race — they were beating the Canadiens, in Montreal, as word of the Wright blockbuster spread on Monday. Being in contention left little leeway for playing a teenager coming directly from the OHL, which is a pro-format league for players aged 16 to 20. Wright had one goal and one assist in eight games with the Kraken, then scored four goals in five games during a minor-league assignment to the Coachella Valley Firebirds.

At the world junior, Wright demonstrated his potential by playing an all-around role and contributing seven points in as many games to help Canada defend its gold medal. It was the first time Canada has repeated since the five-year run from 2005 to 2009. Oakville’s John Tavares and Freelton’s Ryan Ellis were both on that ’09 team, which was coached by the late Pat Quinn, a Hamilton native.

Reports that circulated had suggested Wright was bound for either the Barrie Colts, London Knights, Ottawa 67’s, or Peterborough Petes.

With longtime NHL forward and Oshawa Generals great Marc Savard behind the bench, Windsor has a .694 point percentage, and is three points behind London (.736) for top seeding in the OHL Western Conference. The Spitfires already added 20-year-old Boston Bruins prospect Brett Harrison in a swap with the Oshawa Generals. Their core group also includes 20-year-old New York Islanders prospect Matthew Maggio, whose 28 goals in 34 games rank second in the OHL. Windsor also came within one win of the OHL title last season, losing a seven-game final against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Wright tallied 32 goals and 94 points across 63 games as a captain last season in Kingston. He added 14 points in the postseason for the Frontenacs. As a 15-year-old exceptional status rookie in 2019-20, he scored 39 goals — a Kingston rookie record and exactly 20 per cent of the entire team’s output of 195.

A 15-year-old has to apply to Hockey Canada for exceptional status in order to play in the OHL, Québec or Western league a year ahead of their peer group. Tavares, Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid and likely 2023 No. 1 overall choice Connor Bedard, who set Team Canada scoring records at the world junior, are other players who have been granted exceptional status in recent years. Oakville native Michael Misa, now playing for the Saginaw Spirit, received it last season.

Coincidentally, when Windsor had a former exceptional status player in the fold when it last won the Memorial Cup in 2017, it . That season, the Spitfires added defenceman Sean Day in a deal with the Mississauga Steelheads. Windsor won the year-end tournament as a host team after a first-round playoff defeat.

The following season, Windsor moved Day to Kingston. Those Frontenacs reached the conference final stage of the playoffs for the first time in a quarter-century, but lost to the eventual ’18 OHL champion Bulldogs. The next season they bottomed out and landed Wright with a top selection.

In 2010, when Windsor was coming off winning back-to-back OHL and Memorial Cup championships, it also traded star goaltender Philipp Grubauer to the Frontenacs. (Jack Campbell, now with the Edmonton Oilers, was coming in as the Spitfires’ 18-year-old goaltender.)

This season, Grubauer and Wright were teammates in Seattle.

Meantime, Wright, Harrison, and the Spitfires will visit the Generals on Jan. 22, which is Oshawa’s next home game.

Wright will also have a potential reunion game in Kingston on Feb. 26.

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