Get ready for an exceptional Saturday.
This weekend, tune in to CBC to catch a matinee meetup between the Mississauga Steelheads and hosting Kingston Frontenacs headlined by 2022 NHL Draft favourite Shane Wright. Heating up in recent weeks, Wright has collected at least one point in five of his past six outings entering Friday action, giving him 16 points through 12 appearances this season, while he will now look to bring that prolific production to a national audience Saturday.
Prior to puck drop, Wright sat down with CHL.ca to discuss his play this season and the opportunity to return to the ice after a year away, his reaction to being named captain of the Frontenacs, his hope to earn a spot with Team Canada at the World Juniors, and more:
Q: What’s it been like getting back into action after a year off?
SW: It’s been great. It’s been nice to get back to Kingston, get back to normal life, getting to the rink every day and practicing, being around my teammates, and just playing games. After having a year-and-a-half off, it’s just nice to find a bit of normalcy in my life.
Q: You seem to have found another gear over the last few games. What do you think has changed?
SW: I think it’s a bit of a confidence thing. I started out a little bit slower, I wasn’t as confident with the puck, or confident making plays. The last couple of days, I really stepped that up. I think I have been playing smart and going out and enjoying myself and trying not to think about it too much. Go out there, react, and play hockey.
Q: How do you get out of your head like that?
SW: Stick to what I have been doing best. It wasn’t like I was playing bad hockey. I was getting chances, scoring goals, and creating opportunities. I tried to focus on that and had confidence that the points and the other stuff were going to come.
Q: Is it just a matter of a couple hitting the back of the net and everything just balloons for you?
SW: I think that contributes to that. Getting a couple of bounces and some good breaks. Maybe you get a lucky bounce and the puck goes into the net for you. Maybe it opens up the floodgates and helps boost your confidence.
Q: How has your game evolved over the years?
SW: I think I have become a lot more mature in the way I play. I feel like my overall game has improved a lot in my own end and defensively. I think that’s a big part of my game nowadays. It’s something I have worked on for a number of years now. Also, my physical game and physical maturity. I am older now and was able to put on muscle and weight and use my size to my advantage.
Q: I’ve been told over the years that you have always been the most mature in the room. Is that something you take pride in?
SW: I am proud of that. I think it’s because of the way I was raised by my parents. Be mature, respectful, and treat people properly. I’d also say the experience I have had through the exceptional player process and coming into the league a year earlier, I was able to grow up faster and mature faster, which helps in my success.
Q: How’d it feel to be named captain?
SW: It’s a huge honour for me. I take a lot of pride in being a leader for this team. It’s another way I can contribute to the team. To be recognized by my coaches and teammates is a huge honour for me.
Q: How do you block out the noise of the NHL Draft this year?
SW: I just try to do whatever I can to ignore that. I already have high expectations on myself and the way I play, so I don’t really focus too much on other people’s expectations. Obviously I am aware of the pressures and expectations but I do the best I can to tune them out and ignore them.
Q: What are your personal expectations?
SW: Getting drafted is a goal of mine. I think every kid’s goal growing up in Canada is to make the NHL and I am the same. As well, I’d like to make the World Juniors for Team Canada. That is something I have had my eye on for some years now. It’s a prestigious tournament and it would be a dream come true for me.
Q: What was it like seeing some of your buddies getting drafted into the NHL last year?
SW: It was great for me. I was super happy to see them get drafted in the first round. It’s nice to see all their hard work paying off. It’s good for me too because I got to see what went into the draft process, like the interviews, media, and scouting. It gave me a real good indication on what is about to come.
Q: How does it feel to see headlines of fan bases ‘Fighting for Wright’?
SW: It’s pretty cool to see those headlines. It’s funny to see that teams may be fighting for the position to draft me. It’s really cool to see.
Q: What type of team are the Kingston Frontenacs?
SW: Our coach wants us to play hard and to be a hard team to play against. We play sound defence, give up minimal chances, and pick our moments when it comes, not trying to force anything or make plays out of nothing. Just play in their end, play down low. That’s when we are our best, when we find ways to score and compete to win games.
Q: What do you say to the younger guys on the team?
SW: A lot of the time it’s reminding them it’s one game at a time. It’s a long season with lots of games to be played. It’s important that they know it’s a long season and not try to focus on what is ahead or if you have a bad game or shift to forget about it because you have other opportunities coming up.
Q: How often do you guys play around in practice, trying out new moves or mastering things like ‘The Michigan’?
SW: We just try to mess around at the end of practice. You try that stuff, it’s really fun to try it. As you can see, it’s starting to move into the game and it’s working really well.
Q: What about stuff that Connor McDavid is pulling off these days?
SW: I mean that’s pretty special. I don’t think a lot of players can do what he does, and that consistently, but it’s pretty special and fun to watch. It’s almost like we are used to Connor doing incredible stuff that it becomes normal, but it’s incredible.
Q: What do you need to do to get the result against Mississauga?
SW: The big thing for us is that we have to create more offense against them. They are a very strong defensive team and we need to find ways to break them down and score goals. I think in the other games this year we scored two in each game, so we need to find ways to create more. They have a lot of big strong defencemen and two good goalies, so breaking them down and scoring goals is the key to success.
Q: How do you find more ways to score goals?
SW: It’s about winning the battles and transitioning better. We need to use our speed to our advantage. We are a pretty quick team, so countering off the rush. Those are the ways we can really take advantage and score goals.
Q: How special is it to get to play hockey on CBC?
SW: It’s pretty special. Playing in front of thousands of people in an arena, and then thousands more on TVs or laptops or whatever. It’s pretty special and super fun. These are the games you look forward to and want to make a difference in.
Q: How do you make sure your rookies don’t get caught up in the bright lights of CBC?
SW: We just tell them to treat it like a normal game and try to prepare like you do for any other game. Just go out there and do the same routine and don’t think too much about outside expectations or who is watching and you will do just fine.
Q: Why should we tune in to CBC on Saturday to watch Kingston vs. Mississauga?
SW: It’s going to be an exciting game. It’s going to be a fun game. We’re two teams that are playing pretty well right now and can score a couple goals as well. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Q: How much are you looking forward to World Junior camp?
SW: It would be a huge honour for me to make that team, and a dream come true as well. It would mean the world to me to represent my country. I did at the U18s but World Juniors is ‘the’ tournament in junior hockey and the tournament everyone wants to compete in and win. Hopefully I can be lucky enough to make that team and represent my country.