Well after an exclusive scouting trip of Europe, Scandinavia and the sub continent I am back with a Ramblings here for DobberProspects.
But seriously, I have been keeping up with the podcast which you can find here. On recent episodes I have been trying to keep up with some of the free agent signings in the prospect world with players coming from the NCAA and CHL primarily. On the latest episode (Episode 52) I was joined by former DobberProspects writer turned scout Dave MacDonald. Dave came on to discuss Shane Wright who was recently granted early entry to the OHL as an exceptional player.
As a Kingston native, I will get the opportunity to watch Shane Wright in his OHL career with the Kingston Frontenacs, and I have a lot of thoughts on this.
First, according to Dave MacDonald Shane Wright is the real deal. Wright is drawing comparisons from a wide variety of scouts and writers to Sidney Crosby. High praise indeed! And Dave did nothing to dispel such comparisons.
I can’t help but look at teams that are in a rebuild and make fantasy hockey comparisons. How teams rebuild in real life should give insight to how you can build a fantasy hockey dynasty of your own. Some teams do it better or faster than others. Some get lucky and win a lottery and some get even luckier and win the lottery at the right time.
When building a fantasy team I look at every opportunity to improve my team. Drafting is paramount and super fun, I also pay close attention to the waiver wire or free agent opportunities and of course trades. With this in mind I am very curious to see how Kingston Frontenacs General Manager Darren Keily will surround Wright with talent.
For those of you who are not too familiar with the Fronts, let me provide some context. For the past few decades Kingston has been a middling team. Eight out of ten teams in the conference make the playoffs each season and for decades Kingston either failed to make the playoffs or win a playoff round. That all ended a few years ago and last year Kingston loaded up on star players at the deadline adding Max Jones, Cliff Pu, Sean Day and Kingston native Game Vilardi. It cost them a bevy of future picks but they did make it to a conference final before bowing out to Hamilton. After so many years of losing and having very few players go on to have success in the NHL, the fan base is disengaged to say the least.
Thats all about to change. No longer will players refuse to report to Kingston and everywhere Shane Wright plays, be it in top prospect games or for Canada in international tournaments, he will be front and centre and he will put Kingston back into respectability.
So how will Keily rebuild around Wright? Great question!
It starts with the draft happening on Saturday April 6th. Kingston has the first overall pick. Shane Wright will be that pick. They also own picks 27 and 43 and really need to hit with players that can play in the league. Kingston owns 15 picks in total and I would swing for the fences with a bunch of their later round picks. Many players commit to play NCAA and therefore either go undrafted in the OHL draft or are picked much later than they should be. Most of these players never play in the OHL, but some do and having a trump card to play like “You can play with Shane Wright if you come to Kingston” is a game changer.
Beyond the OHL Priority draft, the next opportunity is the CHL Import Draft. Kingston owns the second overall selection in this draft and surely can add a star player here as well. Kingston has only one import player on the roster last season who was not an impact player. If he does not return that would open another opportunity to add a player of value.
Kingston should also look at adding an impact over age player. The team will have openings there for sure and other teams will have overage players that could return for an extra season and play for a contract. Each year the CHL leagues are lead in scoring by overage players who were undrafted in the NHL draft and are looking to sign as a free agent. A team loaded up with older players now and making a run in the playoffs would be willing to move an OA player for next season to get younger and start their own rebuild. The cost for adding a player in his OA season should come at a discount as he is assured to have only the one season of eligibility. Adding a veteran that can help lead Wright in his rookie season, and help ease the offensive burden would be critical in my opinion.
One underlying factor to all these scenarios is that Kingston finally has a player that gives them leverage in recruiting. Players from Europe will be more likely to come to Kingston to play with Wright, players may be persuaded to leave NCAA or USHL to come play in the OHL with Shane Wright. If Keily can leverage that and surround Wright with star player like the Erie Otters did with Connor McDavid the impact of Wright will be felt long after he is gone.
I have to admit, I am more excited for the coming season in Kingston than I have been for any other, even when they loaded up with star players a year ago. This will be Darren Keily’s legacy, how he is able to build around a player like Shane Wright via draft and shrewd trades will set the tone for the rest of his career.
That is all for this week folks, its good to be back.