TORONTO — Michael Marner was watching the 2022 NHL Draft on TV and, like everyone watching, he saw Shane Wright was emotionally depressed.
So he wanted to help.
The Toronto Maple Leafs forward confirmed on Monday that he texted Wright with a note of encouragement moments after the 18-year-old forward was selected with the No. 4 pick by the Seattle Kraken at the Bell Center in Montreal.
Wright, who had 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League last season, was expected to become the Montreal Canadiens’ No. 1, but the Canadiens opted for forward Juraj instead Slafkovsky.
The New Jersey Devils then selected the defender Simon Nemec with the No. 2 pick, and the Arizona Coyotes picked the forward Logan Cooley at #3, leaving Wright to be chosen by the Kraken.
“I think everyone could see there was a bit of frustration in him,” Marner said during the Zach Hyman Celebrity Classic at Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto on Monday. “I just wanted to text him saying fourth place is a good choice and there’s nothing wrong with being fourth.”
Marner would know, having been selected 4th overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2015 NHL Draft, behind the forward Connor McDavid (No. 1, Edmonton Oilers), forward Jack Eichel (No. 2, Buffalo Sabres) and forward Dylan Strom (No. 3, Arizona Coyotes). The 25-year-old has 455 points (138 goals, 317 assists) in 427 NHL games, so the Kraken will be thrilled if Wright produces similar numbers later on.
Other notable players who were selected with the No. 4 pick include Hall of Fame forwards Steve Yzerman, Ron Francis and Paul Kariya, as well as goaltender Roberto Luongo. More recently there is Cale Makar (2017), who won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman last season as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff most valuable player after helping the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001.
“I don’t know him very well, but he went to Hill Academy, and I got to see him there for a few months when he went there before he went to Kingston,” said Marner, who is also a former student. from Hill Academy. “He’s a great boy. He takes great pride in his craft on the ice and off the ice of working hard.”
Marner wasn’t the only big name to reach out to Wright on draft night, however. Wayne Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, also texted him in support.
“So now, you know, this is an exciting opportunity for him to be able to prove himself in the NHL,” Marner said. “And, like I said, he’s an extremely hard worker.
“He’s going to work hard to try and prove that some teams made the wrong call. That’s how it goes sometimes.”