Montreal Canadiens: What Makes Shane Wright Special?

PETERBOROUGH, ON - MARCH 29: Shane Wright (Photo by Ken Andersen/Getty Images)
PETERBOROUGH, ON - MARCH 29: Shane Wright (Photo by Ken Andersen/Getty Images) /
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So what makes Shane Wright the consensus #1 prospect of the draft?

I have been scouting all season and have kept a particularly close eye on the top first-round prospects and Wright is a slow-burn type player. Barring a game with tremendous production, he won’t wow you on your first viewing, something that may be a harsh realization for Habs fans when he first dons the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.

Wright is not an overly dynamic player. He doesn’t play like McDavid, Matthews, or Crosby. He doesn’t singlehandedly take control of games by pure skill. Other players available in the draft have more of this ability, think of Logan Cooley, Brad Lambert, and even David Jiricek on the backend. But Wright certainly remains the best pick at 1. Why?

While Wright does have some very good tools, which I’ll break down later, what makes him special is his honey mind. He processes the game extremely quickly and in a refined manner, he confined ways out of tricky situations with ease. This is something that can take a while to really pick up on, and it’s why I had significant doubts about his value at #1 through my first two or three viewings. But the more I watch for the more simple aspects of his game, the more I learn about what seemed to be lucky breaks or defenders’ incompetence at a glance.

Wright’s understanding of defensive structures and how to exploit them is superb. When his teammate has the puck in transition or in the offensive zone, Wright will consistently space himself away from any other teammates to provide an outlet and to scatter the defence. He will also drive the middle of the ice to push defenders back in order to create space for his teammates. When people talk about a forward (and a centerman, specifically) who makes his teammates better these are some of the abilities that matter the most. Wright just makes his teammates better.

His understanding of defensive structures also allows him to get into positions to use his great shot and his high-end playmaking. He will drift into the slot when the puck is below the goalie, exploiting defenders’ blind spots, and he uses his strong lower body to create space for himself under pressure, which he uses to either slide a slip pass under the defender’s stick, often to the slot, or to fire off a quick shot, which he doesn’t require much space to fire off.

However, without the tools to exploit the holes his offensive mind finds and creates, he would not be an elite prospect. Thankfully, Wright has a terrific shot (which should have netted him more than the 32 goals he scored this season) as well as great playmaking ability, something he really improved upon this season relative to his D-2 year.

Just take his statistical profile on a scatter plot of CHL and USHL players tracked by Mitch Brown for example. Wright’s playmaking led to his dominance in driving expected primary assists (same as expected goals but the last passer gets credit for it, so passing to dangerous areas frequently led Wright to do so well here). Wright is right at the top of the scatter next to fellow Hab (probably) Xavier Simoneau.