within the NHL
It was an opportunity for an NHL draft pick who replaced Shane Wright first overall to get his team back in the game and get his young career back on track.
Slovak winger Juraj Slavkovski, Montreal Canadiens Trailing the Kraken by three goals Late in the first half on Monday night, he took a deep pass and was briefly lonely on goaltender Martin Jones. Slavkovsky did everything right to set himself up and try to make a quick move before he took full control of the puck.
And he shot it directly into the goalkeeper’s pads.
That left Slavkowski zero goals in his past 18 matches dating back to 1 December and just one in two calendar months. The hulking forward often appears to be a bit too physical, and there is debate as to why he was not loaned out to Slovakia for the IIHF World Junior Championships or on a permanent basis for the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate.
So the top potential turf after fourth overall pick Wright—at least when it comes to NHL impact—was largely brown. Wright was of course He was sent back to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) last weekwhere he was subsequently traded by the Kingston Frontenacs to the rival Windsor Spitfires for a possible run in the league title and later Memorial Cup.
Just as with Slafkovsky, Wright has made little mistake other than turning 18 — who turned 19 last week — trying to break into the NHL lineup. The difference is the Kraken line, Six winners in a row And boasting the league’s No. 3 offense, he’s vying for the Pacific League title while the groggy Canadiens return to the mix for another big teen everyone can pretend next summer.
Canadians can miss their place on the list. Kraken, which is in the business of selling tickets and winning hockey games, can’t do that.
Unlike the Canadiens, the Kraken did not have the option of sending Wright to the AHL. A decades-old agreement between the National Hockey League and major hockey leagues in Canada states that recruits between the ages of 18 and 19 must be loaned from those circuits to their former junior clubs if they are not retained on an NHL roster.
It’s an increasingly controversial rule, largely because the major minor ranks are no longer the only sure way into the NHL as they once were. NCAA players like Kraken Rookie Matty Beniers, minor leaguers from the United States Hockey League, and those from the European pro and junior ranks can be sent to the minor pro circuits right away.
Wright and Slavkowski aren’t the only teens struggling to make an impact in the National Hockey League. The historic list of 18-year-old draftees to instantly accomplish anything in the NHL is as short as the number of first-round series wins the Toronto Maple Leafs have accomplished in the past quarter-century.
None of the players selected in the top 10 picks of the 2022 NHL draft played in the NHL, though several players, including Team Canada’s gold medal-winning captain Wright, have participated in the World Junior Championships. This is what made Slafkovsky’s absence controversial, given his lack of NHL production.
The #2 pick overall, Slovak fullback Simon Nemec, hasn’t sniffed the NHL but is doing well with New Jersey’s Utica Comets in the AHL. Nemec has three goals, 9 assists and plus/minus +11 in 26 games. He had five points in five matches at the Junior World Championships with Slovakia.
New Jersey acquired Nemec because it was loaded with forwards from previous drafts, largely because Wright fell on the Kraken. Nemec also played for the Slovakian professionals, which likely helped him acclimate to the AHL.
Nobody doubts that Nemec will soon get a shot in the NHL. But he was not forced there immediately.
Not only was Arizona Coyotes selection third overall Logan Cooley, now a 21-game senior in his first season at the University of Minnesota who scored seven goals and grabbed seven assists in seven games on the bronze-medal-winning USA team at the World Junior Championships. Interesting note: Take the NCAA and world juniors games — this tournament and the rescheduled one from last August in which he appeared in five other contests — that adds up to 33 games since being drafted.
Wright appeared in eight games for the Kraken, Five more in the NHL preseason, and five others in a one-time AHL conditioning assignment at Coachella Valley, as well as seven in World Youth. That’s 25 games, 18 games against the pros.
The main difference in the games played for both quarterbacks was Cooley attending the World Juniors in August after committing to play the NCAA, while Wright headed to Kraken training camp. So the argument that Wright’s growth was stunted by a lack of playing opportunities does not hold. The reason he returned to junior hockey was because those opportunities would have been greatly reduced had he stayed with the Kraken without any additional conditioning assignments for the AHL or playing World Juniors.
No. 5 overall pick Cutter Gauthier of the Philadelphia Flyers scored 11 goals and seven assists in 14 games with Boston College. The left winger added four goals, six assists for Team USA at the World Junior Championships.
No. 6 overall pick David Gereshk of the Columbus Blue Jackets is doing well with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters after a quiet two-game NHL taste. The defender has five goals and 15 assists plus/minus +6 in his first 19 games in the AHL, as well as seven points for the Czechs in the last Junior World Championship and four more in the same tournament in August.
Seattle Thunderbirds prospect Kevin Korczynski, drafted seventh overall by Chicago, returns for his fourth major junior season with the rival WHL club. The defender has 31 points in 23 games and just won gold at the Junior World Championships for Canada alongside Wright.
No. 8 pick Marco Casper from Detroit The Red Wings stayed with his Swedish professional club. No. 9 Matthew Savoy of the Buffalo Sabers and No. 10 Pavel Mintyukov of the Anaheim Ducks have remained in the WHL and OHL, respectively.
That leaves Slafkovsky the only one of the top 10 players still in the NHL with 10 points in 36 games and destined to be forever compared to Wright, who had a goal and an assist in eight Kraken games — five goals, and one assist in 13 pro games. Inclusive.
It’s safe to say that Wright’s legacy is far from settled and likely just beginning. Better to check back in a year and see where things stand.