Wright looking to impress at World Juniors camp
Shane Wright has a chance to join the path of legends at Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp.
The 2022 NHL Draft-eligible prospect is one of 45 players at the Canadian selection camp, looking to have his name on the final roster that will compete in the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta from December 25, 2020 to January 5, 2021.
If he were to make that roster and play in the tournament, the centerman would become just the eighth 16-year-old to play for Team Canada in the under-20 tournament.
The others? Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Bill Campbell, and Jay Bouwmeester. That’s quite the list.
Wright knows this list. He knows the magnitude of him being in this camp and what making the team would mean.
“It definitely crossed my mind,” said Wright on joining that group of players. “The World Juniors is such a special tournament. It’s something I grew up watching and those are players that I grew up watching as well.
“If I’m lucky enough to make the team it would be really special to me and truly an honour to be in the same category as those guys.”
Granted, this year will be tougher for the young prospect to make the roster than most. With the NHL not yet started, players like Chicago Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach have been loaned to Team Canada, making for fewer available spots.
Wright prepared to face top competition
But Wright has been taking this process one step at a time. The first step: making this selection camp.
“It was a goal for me,” said Wright. “Last year, I felt like I had a pretty strong season and a pretty strong end to the season. I definitely feel like my play from last year gave me a chance to get invited to this camp.”
Last season was Wright’s rookie campaign in the OHL, and he turned heads as an exceptional-status player. At just 15-years-old, he scored 39 goals, 27 assists, and 66 points in 58 games. He was given the “A” in the season, thanks to his play on the ice and his leadership within the team.
He finished the season off by earning Rookie of the Year honours for both the OHL and the CHL.
What that season also did, was help prepare him for this camp and potentially the tournament that follows. Wright has been playing against players up to four and five years older than him for the past year and has played against older players for most of his career.
So when it came time to step on this ice in the Selection Camp with these older, proven players, Wright was able to shake his nerves.
“I’m used to being the young player,” said Wright. “I’m used to being the youngest guy on the team… I wasn’t too nervous walking in, mostly excitement.”
Wright learning from roommate Byram
Making Wright’s transition to the Selection Camp a little easier has been bunking with returning player Bowen Byram. The fourth-overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2019 NHL Draft has been helping the young player settle into camp.
“He’s a fun guy,” laughed Wright. “He’s a fun guy to be with, he’s a funny guy to be around and talk with. He has some good stories. I’m pretty lucky to have him as a roommate.”
Byram has been giving the young player some advice early on in the camp, acting as a leader for the young player.
“Probably the biggest thing that I’ve told him so far is to enjoy himself and not put too much pressure on himself,” said Byram. “He’s here for a good time. I’m sure if he works his hardest and he’s confident on the ice, he’ll put himself in a good position.”
On the ice, Byram has been pushing that leadership onto Wright, calling on him to lead the stretch for the group, earing a stick tap from Carolina Hurricanes prospect, Ryan Suzuki.
“He told me to hop in the middle and lead the stretch for the boys,” smiled Wright. “I just took his lead, went in and led the stretch for everyone.”
Head coach Tourigny has high praise for Wright
The Byram-Wright connection is important for the young player and head coach Andre Tourigny acknowledged that.
“It’s just positive,” said Tourigny on the two players rooming together. “Bo is just a high tempo and charismatic guy, it will be good for Shane to be around.
“Shane is so serious and he wants to do so well. He’s really focused, he wants to do every detail, he wants to please us. It will be good to be around Bo and loosen up a little bit.”
Tourigny also coaches the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, which faced off against Wright and the Frontenacs six times in 2019-20. It’s safe to say that the coach noticed Wright through the season.
“He’s a really good player,” started the head coach. “We played him in the training camp last year, and after the game, I said ‘you know what, this guy will be really good.’
“And then we played him early in the season and I said ‘he’s even better than I thought.’ Then we played him at Christmas and I thought ‘gosh, he’s so good.’
“We played him after Christmas and he was the best player on the ice. Every time I saw Shane Wright play, every game, he got better. I’m looking forward to seeing him moving forward in camp, seeing his progression, and what he can do against all these guys.”
Wright and teammates confident in his game
All Wright can do now is give it everything he has on the ice. His work in the extended offseason should help to compete against this older group too.
“All of this summer was just about building strength and building that muscle mass up,” said Wright. “Being able to compete with those bigger, stronger players, and the older players as well, down low in the corners and being able to push guys off pucks, stuff like that. That was the main focus for me this offseason.”
It seems to have paid off and his teammates have noticed.
“He’s an exceptional player,” said Byram. “I think the first thing I noticed was just how mature he is and how strong he is. He’s definitely an unbelievable player and I think a lot of people have realized that with the numbers he put up where he played last year as an underage guy.”
Connor McMichael, a first-round selection from the Washinton Capitals in 2019, played against Wright last season with the OHL’s London Knights.
“He’s just an unbelievable player,” said McMichael on playing against Wright. “Coming in as a 15-year-old, turning 16. It was just awesome to play against him. Just how mature and how sound he is on the ice, it’s unbelievable.
“Playing him the first time in October compared to the last time in February, he developed a lot and he got a lot bigger and stronger. He’s just a really tough player to play against and he’s pretty unreal.”
Getting the invitation to be in this camp at just 16-years-old is quite the feat. But for Wright, there’s more he’s looking to accomplish.
“I know I’m here for a reason. I know I’m here because I can make this team. I’m good enough to make this team.”