With his name already being mentioned in the same sentence as NHL stars John Tavares and Connor McDavid, forward Shane Wright could have buckled to the pressure in his first season with the Kingston Frontenacs.
Wright instead found a way to deal with the white noise surrounding him and played beyond his age, and on Thursday was awarded for his exceptional season by being named Ontario Hockey League rookie of the year.
“I just tried not to focus on the outside distractions. I already had high expectations for my play,” said Wright, who played the 2019-20 campaign as the youngest skater in the OHL.
“This was one of my goals coming into the season and I’m very honoured.”
Wright, who is eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft, was named the fifth skater all time to be granted exceptional player status for the OHL by Hockey Canada in the spring of 2019, allowing him to enter the season as a 15-year-old when the Frontenacs selected him No. 1 at the draft.
The native of Burlington, Ont., who turned 16 Jan. 5, joined an elite group to be given early admission to the OHL alongside forwards Tavares and McDavid and defencemen Aaron Ekblad and Sean Day.
He went on to finish the shortened 2019-20 season by leading all first-year skaters with 39 goals and 66 points in 57 games.
At 1.15 points a game, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound centre was outpacing a 15-year-old McDavid (1.04), the last player to be granted exceptional-player status in 2012-13, and was just behind Tavares (1.19), the first player to be allowed in the league at that age with the exceptional label in 2005-06 – leading to some in hockey circles to call it “The Tavares Rule” – when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season.
Early scouting reports suggest that the right-handed centre could be the No. 1 NHL pick in 2022, like Tavares and McDavid before him.
Frontenacs general manager Darren Keily believes Wright will only continue to get better before his name is called by an NHL team.