When the Kingston Frontenacs landed the first-overall pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, they knew that they may have drafted a generational talent. The team picked Shane Wright, a center who played for the Don Mills Flyers in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.
Wright was highly regarded as a lock to lead off the Priority Selection after scoring 150 points, including 66 goals and 18 penalty minutes in 72 minor midget games. His ability to both set up his teammates and fill the net made him a desirable player for the Frontenacs who look to rebound from an abysmal 14-win season. It was their second-worst total in franchise history.
An Exceptional Player
Wright will headline the squad in Kingston, which is a tall task for any athlete, but an incredible demand for the player who will be the youngest participant in Major Junior Hockey in Canada this season. Wright is just 15 years old and was granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada.
The status allows Wright to play in the OHL a year earlier than the league’s guidelines allow. It’s a remarkable achievement, especially considering that he wasn’t the only player to apply last season. Matthew Savoie also attempted to earn exceptional status. He was declined despite scoring an incredible 31 goals and 40 helpers for a sum of 71 points in just 31 games.
Savoie was selected first overall in the WHL Bantam Draft to the newly-relocated team, Winnipeg Ice. He is eligible to play in just five games for the team this season and will spend the rest of his season centering a line for his prep school midget team. Should injuries occur, he could then be called to fill in.
By denying Savoie the opportunity to play full time in the WHL, it demonstrates the stringency that Hockey Canada places in granting only the best exceptional status. Wright joined some elite company when he was given the nod to enter the OHL early.
He’s Already One of Junior’s Elite
Only four other players have ever been granted the exceptional player status into the OHL. Three of them went on to be drafted first overall in both the OHL Priority Selection and then in the NHL Draft. They are John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid.
The fourth and outlier in the group is Sean Day, a defenceman who played for Detroit Compuware. He was not as fortunate with his career path since he was approved to join the OHL at age 15. Day went fourth overall to the Mississauga Steelheads in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection and then was the New York Rangers’ 81st pick in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft. He is currently playing for Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL.
The lone exceptional status player to enter the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was Joe Veleno. He got it ahead of the 2015 QMJHL Entry Draft. Veleno was selected first overall by the Saint John Sea Dogs. He currently plays for Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL, after he was picked by the Detroit Red Wings at the end of the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft.
Wright now has the opportunity to do what the trio of Tavares, Ekblad, and McDavid did in their junior careers, which was to take the league by storm. When Tavares played in the OHL, attendance rose at every one of his road games. Hockey fans flocked to the rinks to see his talents on display. The same was true for McDavid.
There are already many in hockey circles buzzing about history repeating itself with the league’s latest attraction. Wright is sure to bring out casual fans along with kids and those who just want to be able to say that they saw him play before he became a pro.
The Frontenacs could surely use the boost in support. The team is winless in its first five games this season. The bright spot for them is that Wright has already broken the ice by potting his first OHL goal. It came on the road against the Oshawa Generals in their third game of the season. He doubled his total and added an assist in the very next game.
Expect Wright to do what he does best this season, which is to play the game at a fast pace and use his high hockey IQ to help his team score. Fans will enjoy seeing Wright’s creativity in action.
Though the Frontenacs aren’t expected to be a dominant team, their young star might be a dominant player.
A former scout and referee turned writer, covering the game of hockey wherever it’s played.