Shane 'Wright' for Frontenacs?

Shane Wright, a centre with the Don Mills Flyers, in action during an 8-3 win over the North Central Predators at the OHL Cup in Toronto on Wednesday. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

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Shane Wright of the Don Mills Flyers skates through the offensive zone with relative ease, sneaks behind the defence of the North Central Predators, takes a hard pass from teammate Brandt Clarke and one-times a shot behind the opposing goaltender.

Two shifts into his second game at the OHL Cup minor midget tournament, Wright, 15, has scored again.

After Wednesday’s action, Wright was tied for the tournament scoring lead with three goals and eight points. His team was undefeated in three games, winning by scores of 6-1 over the York-Simcoe Express, 8-3 over the Predators and 6-0 over the Windsor Jr. Spitfires.

Wright’s plus-minus through three games was +8 and he was 41 for 56 at the faceoff dot, a 73 per cent success rate.

Heading into the OHL Cup, the six-foot, 183-pound, bantam-aged (2004 birth year) centre had 66 goals and 84 assists for 150 points in 72 games with the Flyers.

Shane Wright, a centre with the Don Mills Flyers, scores the first goal in an 8-3 win over the North Central Predators at the OHL Cup in Toronto on Wednesday. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

Last week, Wright was given exceptional player status by the Ontario Hockey League and will have his name on the list of eligible players for the OHL Priority Selection draft on Saturday, April 6. He is the consensus No. 1-ranked player.

He’s only the fifth player to be granted the status to join the OHL a year early, after John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid and Sean Day.

At the OHL Cup this week in Toronto, scouts have been keeping a close eye on Wright, some of his talented Don Mills teammates and more than 300 others in the tournament being played at the Scotiabank Pond in the Downsview area of Toronto.

Ontario Hockey League scouts and others keep their eyes on Shane Wright, a centre with the Don Mills Flyers, and other players during an 8-3 Flyers win over the North Central Predators at the OHL Cup in Toronto on Wednesday. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

The OHL Cup is a one-stop shopping event for scouts from the league as well as scouts from the junior A level to look at all of the best players from 20 of the best minor-midget teams in the province and northern United States.

The Kingston Frontenacs have nine scouts and staff members watching the action this week.

Wright will no doubt have his name at the top of the OHL draft list, and the Kingston Frontenacs will have the first opportunity to select him.

Kingston’s No. 1 overall draft slot was guaranteed on Thursday night when the 19th-place Flint Firebirds beat the Windsor Spitfires, 4-3. That left the Firebirds six points ahead of the 20th-place (last overall) Frontenacs, with Kingston having just two games left in the regular season — one on Friday night, their last home, against the Oshawa Generals at 7 p.m. at the Leon’s Centre and the other on Sunday afternoon in Ottawa against the first-place 67’s.

The Kingston franchise has not had a No. 1 overall pick since 1988, when they selected defenceman Drake Berehowsky. The only other time they have picked first was in 1985, with defenceman Bryan Fogarty the target. Both went on to play in the National Hockey League.

But neither Wright nor Frontenacs general manager Darren Keily would confirm that Wright will be wearing the black and gold of the Kingston Frontenacs in 2019-20.

All Keily would say was that Wright is a very good player who is fun to watch.

Shane Wright, a centre with the Don Mills Flyers, in action during an 8-3 win over the North Central Predators at the OHL Cup in Toronto on Wednesday. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

As for Wright, he said in an interview after the game against the Predators that it’s too soon to speculate which OHL team he will join next season.

“I really haven’t had a chance to talk to any teams yet, so that decision hasn’t really been made yet,” Wright said.

He was also asked if he feels any pressure going into the OHL as an underage player.

“Honestly, I’m not going to think about that. I’m just going to go out there, play my game, just play hockey and have fun,” he said. “My whole life I’ve always played an age up, so I was always kind of ahead of the curve in my own age group.”

Wright’s family is from Burlington but moved to Toronto three years ago so Wright could play in the Greater Toronto Hockey League for more exposure.

“The strength of my game I think is definitely my brain, my hockey IQ, just the way I think the game, that’s definitely my best part,” Wright said. “Something I can work on are my shot and my finishing ability I could improve on. I could get a lot more chances to score more if I improve on that for sure.

“This year more than ever I’ve taken special care to improve my 200-foot game. I’ve always had the offensive side of things, but I wanted to hone my defensive game as well.”

Wright says his favourite player is Sidney Crosby, and he plays a similar style of game as the Pittsburgh Penguins captain.

“I’m more about his competitiveness and winning mentality. He has three cups to his name, so that’s pretty incredible, and I hope to get that winning mentality,” Wright said.

Kingston’s Don Cherry has seen Wright and said his play reminds him of Crosby.

“He’s a dandy,” Cherry said in a returned phone message to the Whig-Standard.

Besides holding his weekly Coach’s Corner every Saturday night, Cherry also helps his son Tim scout minor midget hockey in Toronto. Over the years, he has seen a lot of the up-and-coming hockey stars, including current NHL star Connor McDavid.

“He skates like Crosby, he’s got the hockey sense, he’s got everything going for him, he’s what you call a franchise player,” Cherry said. “We saw him play last [Wednesday] night and he’s a beauty, and guys like him come along every 10 years.

“If [the Frontenacs] do end up getting him, the fans are going to love him, I guarantee it. As you know, I’m never wrong.”

Darrell Woodley, the director of Central Scouting for the OHL, said Wright is as good off the ice as he is on it.

“Off the ice he’s a great kid, mature, wise beyond his years, well spoken and everything else,” Woodley said during a break from watching OHL Cup games on Wednesday.

“His play on the ice speaks for itself. He has speed and a dynamic skill set on him the way he can move the puck. He’s led that Don Mills team offensively and they’ve lost one game this year, so it kind of speaks for itself. He’s a generational-type player.”

Woodley coached Wright at the Canada Winter Games last month in Red Deer, Alta., where Wright captained Team Ontario to a silver medal. He finished the tournament with six goals and 12 points in six games.

“This has been his goal and dream for a couple of years now,” Woodley said. “He’s been the best in his age group for years now as an underage kid, and he’s been building and grooming himself towards it.”

Don Mills coach Marcus Slawson said Wright is one of 17 very competitive players on his Don Mills team.

“Shane’s been with us for three years, and every year he gets a little bit better. This year, obviously, he’s taken a big step forward with the exceptional status. There’s a lot of attention on him and we’re very proud of him,” Slawson said.

“As a coach, he’s a dream to have. Obviously, on the ice he’s clearly an exceptional player, getting that designation, but on the flip side he’s a better kid.”

“In the dressing room with his teammates, he’s able to be the person we point to as an example of how to do things the right way, and the guys follow him and get on his back and he has been a great asset to this program over the last three years.”

To focus on his hockey development, Wright has shied away from doing things normal teenagers do.

“The end goal is to play in the NHL, and I think doing the things I’ve done up to this point are going to get me there,” Wright said.

With his new-found celebrity, Wright has been doing interviews and signing autographs. He’s perfected that skill as well.

“I’ve been doing a couple at home and they look all right,” he said.

Shane Wright, a centre with the Don Mills Flyers, after an 8-3 win over the North Central Predators at the OHL Cup in Toronto on Wednesday. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

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