John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, Shane Wright.
One of these names is not like the others, but with a strong rookie season, Wright has the potential to be as good as the players mentioned here before him. The names on this list were not a coincidence. Like Wright, they were granted exceptional status and played in the OHL as a 15-year-old. Nonetheless, how do they stack up? How does Wright of the Kingston Frontenac compare with some of the stars in the hockey world after his first season in the OHL?
Wright is not only a mature player mentally, but physically as well. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, this makes him incredibly athletic for his age. Wright is a right-handed centre who had a 48.0 faceoff percentage in his rookie season, saw time on both special teams and was a second-line player for the majority of his first season.
McDavid at 15 was also 5-foot-11, but under 180 pounds, which is less than Wright. McDavid was also granted exceptional status and picked first-overall by the Erie Otters, where he played three seasons there. McDavid’s role on the team was similar, with their statistics mirroring that.
Related: Best Rookie Seasons in NHL History
Tavares had a similarly strong start in the OHL and starred in his first season for the Oshawa Generals. Another athletic centre for his age, Tavares had 23 points in 16 games as a 14-year-old in the OPJHL before his rookie season. His two-way game and lethal shot made him stand out from his peer group and were what enabled him also to achieve exceptional status.
Rookie Season Statistics
It is hard to score points in the OHL at any age, let alone as an underage player. Nonetheless, if a player is granted exceptional status, such as the players aforementioned, they tend to go to a team that desperately needs their services.
Wright joined a Frontenacs team that finished last in the league, eight points clear of their nearest competition, only managing 30 points in 68 games of the season. In a robust Eastern Conference in the OHL, Wright’s first (partial) season saw the Frontenacs come eighth in the East, with 12 points more (as a team) in six fewer games. This performance was good for the final playoff position in the conference (at time of the cancellation), but how did Wright individually do in his rookie season?
Wright who played in 58 games, had 66 points, with 39 of those being goal tallies. Wright had points on the penalty kill and the power play and saw a large role as he led the Frontenacs in scoring. Playing on the second line for large portions of the season, Wright would’ve benefitted from more experienced linemates but all-in-all had a strong rookie showing.
In comparison to Wright, McDavid had a very similar rookie season where he also had 66 points but played five more games. McDavid had 25 goals compared to Wright’s 39 but had more assists. McDavid was a minus-24 in that first season, compared to Wright’s minus-six. Although different seasons, it is fair to say that Wright had a better rookie season than McDavid, but what about Tavares?
Tavares had an incredible rookie season for the Oshawa Generals, as he transitioned seamlessly into the OHL. In 65 games, Tavares had 77 points with 45 of those being goal tallies. He was a more prolific scorer in his rookie season and had a marginally better rookie season than Kingston’s Wright.
Junior Success Equals NHL Success?
It is very difficult to determine from one season in the OHL if a player is going to be a star at the NHL level. Players like Joe Veleno have excelled at the major junior level and have failed to make that transition to the NHL, while others like McDavid and Penguins sensation Sidney Crosby do it seamlessly.
With that all being said, Wright’s rookie season was special, and beating out players like McDavid only proves that. In the next season(s) we will see the true heights Wright can reach as a young Kingston team develops in parallel to him.
If you somehow have not heard the name Shane Wright, you soon will as he develops into an elite player. Few players excel enough to gain exceptional status to the OHL while even fewer manage to beat the numbers posted by McDavid in their rookie season. Kingston fans should enjoy the ride before their star sails toward stardom in the NHL.