Canada’s gold medal hopes at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship could be led by a pair of No. 1’s.
Owen Power, the No. 1 pick of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2021 NHL Draft, and Shane Wright, projected to be selected No. 1 in the 2022 NHL Draft, are each expected to play a big role for Canada in the tournament.
“I got to skate with him a couple times this summer,” Power said of Wright. “Obviously a really, really good player and a great talent. I think he’s someone who is really good at both ends of the ice and really smart player. When it comes to him and scoring areas, it seems like he scores every time he gets a good chance.
“I think he’s going to be a huge part to our team.”
Wright is an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list for the 2022 NHL draft, which is scheduled to be hosted by the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre July 7-8.
Power was drafted by the Sabres with the first pick on July 23, 2021.
“He’s a great player,” Wright said. “He’s a guy that obviously is super big, super good stick, super solid defensively. He’s quick, he’s fast, and he can score goals and he can make plays. He’s a guy that has all the tools. He’s got the toolbox as well. He’s a super good player. I’m happy he’s on our team.”
A sophomore defenseman at the University of Michigan, Power leads NCAA defensemen and is tied for 10th among all players with 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) in 18 games this season.
Power also played at the 2021 IIHF World Championship and had three assists in 10 games to help Canada win the tournament for the first time since 2016.
“He has that experience,” said Canada forward Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets), Power’s teammate at Michigan. “I think everyone looks up to him and watches him pretty closely. And his details every day. His practice habits. He’s a great leader.
“The big thing you notice offensively is he creates so much from the blue line in [in the offensive] zone. It’s not just off the rush like a lot of D-men. He’s jumping in and activating, and he’s a fourth forward out there. He gets back there and does such a good job defensively, too.”
Wright scored 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 22 games as captain of Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League this season.
The forward was the captain for Canada at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, scoring 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in five games to help it win the tournament.
In 2019, he became the sixth player to be granted exceptional status into the Canadian Hockey League, joining Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (2005), Florida Panthers defensemen Aaron Ekblad (2011), Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (2012), Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman prospect Sean Day (2013) and Detroit Red Wings forward Joe Veleno (2015).
“I think we all know how great of a player he is, but I don’t think many people see him behind the scenes and know just how great of a person he is,” said Canada forward Logan Stankoven (Dallas Stars), who was teammates with Wright at U-18. “It doesn’t matter his skillset, he always takes time for every single teammate and always says, ‘Hi,’ and acknowledges them. Just goes to show his character and how thankful he is and how great of a person he is. He’s so humble. I think that’s what contributes to his success.”
Wright, who turns 18 on Jan. 5 — the date of the gold medal game at World Juniors — will be Canada’s second-youngest player in the tournament after Connor Bedard, a potential No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, who is 16.
However, he won’t let his age dictate his approach at the tournament.
“I feel like I’ve always kind of tried to be the leader in every situation wherever I go,” Wright said. “I always try to lead by example, lead by my play or my work habits or things like that. I’ve always been one of the younger players, but I feel like that doesn’t really matter when it comes to the on-ice and how you perform.
“I just try to go out there and lead as best as possible.”
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