Finally, the World Junior Championships are on. It’s the best time of year for many hockey fans, particularly in Canada. Most of the best hockey players under the age of 20 years old are competing for their country in Edmonton and Red Deer and the hype is high, particularly that the NHL had cancelled several games due to COVID.
As all eyes are on Team Canada, it is, for many Habs’ fans, the first occasion for them to watch Shane Wright, projected to go first overall at the next NHL Draft. For most fans across Canada, it’s a rare occasion to see him play. And for all of us, it’s also our fist chance to watch him against the toughest competition he’s faced so far in his young career.
A game or two don’t make a career. But if you are watching the games impartially, evaluating players, you will have to admit that so far in this tournament, Wright has been completely invisible. He was a none factor in the exhibition game against Russia and was nowhere to be found against the Czechs, and Canada scored six goals in each of those games. To make matters worse for Wright, he’s on a line with 16 year-old Connor Bedard, who has been very noticeable. But it’s only been two games, so it is too early to push the panic button quite yet.
What worries me more is that in those two games that I watched, he seemed unengaged, disinterested in getting involved, in getting the puck on his stick. Worse, the effort hasn’t always been there. In fact, it hasn’t been there often. I don’t know if he’s playing injured and in a way, I hope that he is. As if he’s not, there are huge red flags starting to go up and loud bells are ringing. Those are warning signs that can simply not be ignored and swept under the carpet, even if many Habs’ fans are already very defensive about the young man.
Maybe it’s my age showing, but the last thing I want to see, it’s for the Canadiens go through a season like this and end up witnessing another Doug Wickenheiser situation. How can we forget that the last two players they’ve selected in the top-3 aren’t with the team anymore? The Habs simply cannot afford to miss on this one… and they have no scouting gourou in place after the firing of Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins. After seeing what I’ve seen so far in this tournament, hearing people wanting Montreal to “tank for Wright” seems very… Wrong.
It’s only two games and my assessment is based solely on those two games. It is not reflective of his worth. There are many more games to come. I’m certainly not jumping to conclusions yet. But there is no doubt that if Wright doesn’t start showing why scouts were drooling over him, his stock will start to drop as it’s based on performances. There is nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade and admitting that so far in two games, he’s been rather underwhelming. Don’t forget folks… with hype come expectations. Fingers crossed that he picks it up both for himself, and for Team Canada.