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The 2022 The NHL draft lottery will be held Tuesday to determine the draft order for the 16 non-playoff clubs. At stake is the opportunity for one of the top-11 seeds to receive the first overall selection.
Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League remains the favorite to be chosen with that selection. Scouts have lauded the 18-year-old center’s complete game. On Jan. 12, TSN’s director of scouting Craig Button compared the youngster to Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron.
Wright has the potential to become a foundation player for a rebuilding club such as the Arizona Coyotes or Montreal Canadiens. He could also become an important piece for the Seattle Kraken as they come out of their inaugural season and build for the future.
While Wright could be a great addition to each of those eligible 11 seeds, some of them would be better fits for the promising youngster than others. Some would provide him with a less pressured environment to develop his talents. Others would give him the opportunity to play close to home with other rising young stars or alongside experienced veterans to show him the ropes.
Here’s our take on his five best destinations. If you agree or disagree with our choices, feel free to express your thoughts in the comments section below.
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The Detroit Red Wings have been rebuilding under Steve Yzerman since he took over as general manager in 2019. Sitting with this season’s eighth-worst record with 74 points, they hold a 6 percent chance of winning the lottery and claiming Wright.
While Yzerman has made several shrewd selections such as Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond and promising defenseman Simon Edvinsson, he’s never had the first overall selection despite his club’s low placement in previous standings. Winning the lottery this time could provide the opportunity to select what could be a key piece of the Red Wings’ future.
They tend to patiently develop their talent, so Yzerman wouldn’t hurry Wright into the lineup. Even if he proved NHL-ready, the Wings GM could keep him in the OHL for another season followed by a stint with their farm team in Grand Rapids.
Wright would be joining a Wings team bursting with potential. Seider and Raymond have already established themselves as NHL talent, Filip Zadina is showing progress, and Edvinsson is expected to join them next season. They also have talented players in their mid-20s such as Alex Nedeljkovic, Jakub Vrana and team captain Dylan Larkin. Wright could go about his game without feeling pressured to carry this club.
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With their glory days as Stanley Cup champions well in the past, the Chicago Blackhawks will be rebuilding their roster under new general manager Kyle Davidson. Sitting with the sixth-worst record with 68 points, they have the sixth-best odds to win the draft at 7.5 percent.
Provided Davidson can convince aging stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to stick around beyond next season, Wright could benefit from their experience and leadership. They’re slated to become unrestricted free agents after next season; however, Davidson believes there’s a place for both players on the Blackhawks’ road back to the top.
Wright could also mesh well with the young Blackhawks stars such as Alex DeBrincat and promising players like Kirby Dach and Lukas Reichel. He would also profit from playing alongside other established NHL talent such as defenseman Seth Jones.
With the Blackhawks’ mix of veterans and promising youth, Wright could be sheltered from the heightened expectations that normally come with a first overall pick. The club’s stated rebuilding efforts would also take some pressure off him from fans and media to meet immediate expectations.
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Coming out of his club’s inaugural campaign, Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis has plenty of work ahead. With just 60 points in 82 games, they finished third-last in the overall standings.
Because they’ve only participated in one previous NHL draft, the Kraken’s prospect pipeline requires more depth. On Jan. 10, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler had them 32nd in his annual prospect pool rankings. Promising center Matty Beniers showed potential in his late-season NHL debut with nine points in 10 games. Adding someone like Wright could provide them with another center with top-line potential.
Given the Kraken’s limited time in the NHL, it will take some time for Francis to build up his roster. That will allow him the opportunity to bring along Wright slowly if he requires another season in the OHL or time with the Kraken’s AHL affiliate in Palm Springs.
Whenever Wright is ready to make the jump full time, he won’t be under the same pressure in Seattle to perform as he would in more established NHL markets. Given his two-way skills, the youngster could slot in on the third or fourth line as he adjusts to the big league pace. That would give him the time and space necessary to build up his skills and develop his game.
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Michael Dwyer / Associated Press
The Arizona Coyotes have been in full rebuild mode since last summer. General manager Bill Armstrong shipped out veterans Darcy Kuemper, Christian Dvorak, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland to give his club seven picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft, with three of them first-rounders.
Finishing second-last in the overall standings with 57 points, the Coyotes have the second-best odds (13.5 percent) of winning the draft lottery. Wright could be an excellent fit in Armstrong’s long-term plans for the club.
The young center would be joining a club with a young core of talent led by Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse, Jakob Chychrun, Barrett Hayton and Conor Timmins, with promising winger Dylan Guenther also in their system. The Coyotes’ head coach is Andre Tourigny, a former OHL head coach used to work with promising talent.
Given their rebuilding process, expectations are low for the Coyotes in the coming years. Wright won’t face as much pressure there as he would on a club with playoff aspirations or one in a more rabid hockey market. Given the NHL’s low profile among Arizona sports fans, he can also enjoy a relatively normal life away from the arena.
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John Minchillo / Associated Press
Less than a year after reaching the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, the Montreal Canadiens finished last in the NHL’s overall standings with just 55 points in 82 games. They’ll have the best odds (18.5 percent) of winning the lottery and selecting Wright with the first overall selection.
Going to a storied franchise like the Canadiens — with its large diehard fanbase where the players live almost a fishbowl existence — could be stressful for a young player. Wright, however, seems up for the challenge. On Dec. 10, 2021, he told reporters while training with Canada’s World Junior team that he wouldn’t mind being drafted by the Canadiens.
Starting his career in Montreal would give Wright an early opportunity to quickly adjust to the demands of becoming a future NHL star. The young center could learn the ropes from young Canadiens core players such as Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. He’d also be only a five-hour drive from his hometown of Burlington, Ontario.
With 14 picks in this year draft, including 10 in the first four rounds, the Canadiens appear headed for a rebuild under first-year general manager Kent Hughes. They’ll likely take their time developing Wright instead of rushing him into the lineup. If he proves NHL-ready, they can ease him into their roster to play sheltered minutes behind centers like Suzuki and Christian Dvorak until he’s ready for bigger responsibilities.
Standings and draft lottery information via NHL.com. Additional info via Cap Friendly.