The Seattle Kraken’s hot start is making it difficult for rookie first-round draft pick Shane Wright to get much playing time.
Wright, fresh off a 14-day conditioning stint with Coachella Valley of the American Hockey League, is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday night when the Kraken play host to the Montreal Canadiens, the team that passed on Wright with the No. 1 overall pick.
The Canadiens instead selected Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky, who has seven points (four goals, three assists) through 20 games.
Wright, long presumed to be the top prospect before falling to Seattle with the No. 4 pick, had one assist in seven games for the Kraken before being scratched in five consecutive games. That allowed the Kraken to send out the 18-year-old on an AHL conditioning assignment instead of back to his junior team, the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs.
“Not really too worried about what he’s doing,” Wright said of Slafkovsky. “(There are) two different situations with what’s going on. I’m more focused on myself and what I’m doing.”
Wright scored four goals in five games with the AHL’s Firebirds as they won four times in that span.
“Obviously it was a really fun two weeks down in Coachella,” Wright said. “There was a great group of guys, had a lot of success as well and it’s nice to be back in Seattle. Nice to be back with the guys here and just nice to be back on the ice here and hopefully ready to go (Tuesday) for the game.”
Kraken forward Jordan Eberle said he saw a different Wright when he returned to practice Monday.
“He looked sharper on the ice,” Eberle said. “He probably looked like he was having a bit more fun, and I think that’s a big thing in developing players. …
“I’m sure he didn’t want to go down. That’s always kind of a knock. But I think if you would ask him right now to look back, it’s probably one of the best things for him.”
Wright, who was averaging only about eight minutes per game with the Kraken, got plenty of ice time with Coachella Valley.
“Definitely gained a lot of confidence down there,” Wright said. “It was nice to be able to play high minutes, get a lot of touches. Just kind of play my game, be myself and regain that confidence in myself and my abilities. Hopefully bring that back up here to Seattle.”
The Kraken, who had a seven-game winning streak snapped with a 5-1 loss to the visiting Florida Panthers on Saturday night and are 12-2-1 in their past 15 games, still must decide whether to keep Wright on their roster on send him back to juniors.
Another option is loaning him to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships.
“No final decision has been made yet, but it’s always a tough thing to pass up if the opportunity comes,” Wright said of representing his country.
The Canadiens will be playing the second half of a back-to-back after blowing a four-goal lead in a 7-6 overtime loss in Vancouver on Monday night.
Montreal led 4-0 after one period and 4-2 after two. The Canucks scored three goals in the first nine minutes of the third period to go on top 5-4, but the Canadiens bounced back with goals at 15:23 by Christian Dvorak and at 17:00 by Josh Anderson to take a 6-5 advantage.
Vancouver’s Andrei Kuzmenko leveled the game on a power play with 1:25 to go in regulation, and Elias Pettersson netted the winner just seconds into overtime after Montreal’s Mike Matheson slipped and lost the puck in the defensive zone.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a game like that,” Canadiens defenseman Jordan Harris said. “Definitely nuts. Just goes to show you can never take your foot off the gas.”
Dvorak said, according to NHL.com, “You’re up 4-0 and a 10- to 15-minute lapse and the lead is gone, and then we came back and lost it again. It was a weird one and definitely hurts a little bit.”
Montreal coach Martin St. Louis added, “All things considered, the emotional roller coaster we went through in this game and how we managed it, I’m proud of the guys.”
Montreal is 1-1-1 on a four-game Western trip that concludes Tuesday.
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