CHL Notebook: Zellweger and Wright produce after World Juniors success

CHL Notebook: Zellweger and Wright produce after World Juniors success

CHL Notebook: Zellweger and Wright produce after World Juniors success

The future stars of the NHL play in the Canadian Hockey League this season. Each week, NHL.com will feature some of the top NHL-affiliated prospects in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League.

Olen Zellweger and Shane Wright caught the eye of the hockey world for helping Canada win the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Their returns to junior hockey have been equally remarkable.

Days after celebrating in Halifax, Zellweger, an Anaheim Ducks prospect defenseman, was traded Jan. 8 from Everett to Kamloops of the WHL for four players and 10 draft picks between 2023 and 2026.

A day later, Wright, a Seattle Kraken forward, was traded from Kingston to Windsor in the OHL for two players and seven draft picks between 2023 and 2025.

With the trade deadline approaching in early January for the CHL leagues, it was time for teams to prepare for the Memorial Cup in May. But the deals for Zellweger and Wright were headline-grabbing blockbusters.

“That’s, I guess, how junior trades are going these days,” Wright said. “These top players are always traded for many picks and many prospects, so it’s quite shocking how many picks can be traded in one trade. It’s really quite crazy.”

Watching the madness like other fans was Ducks director of player development Jim Johnson. He said Anaheim had no part in the Zellweger trade, but the Ducks are certainly happy to know the 19-year-old is heading to Kamloops, which as Memorial Cup host is guaranteed. a place in the four-team tournament.

“Getting meaningful games at the end of the season and potential…you’re not guaranteed long-term, but long-term potential,” Johnson said. “And Kamloops is hosting the Memorial Cup. Obviously they want to do well and they want a long run with this and it gives Olen a chance to play meaningful games at the right time of year. And I think that’s is important for the development of the player.”

Zellweger, who scored a goal in his Kamloops debut Wednesday, had 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 24 games and is third among WHL defensemen in goals scored Friday. The Ducks selected Zellweger in the second round (34th overall) of the 2021 NHL Draft.

“His overall skating is elite,” Johnson said. “His edge control, his mechanics, his balance on his edges, his pivots, his transitions, are all in the top end of elite skating. So I think that speaks well to where he’s going to go at the level. next.

“His offensive instincts are elite, his ability to carry the puck on the ice and his ability to read offensively, his hockey IQ is elite. And he makes good decisions with the puck.”

Wright had a goal and an assist on his Windsor debut on Thursday.

Kraken general manager Ron Francis said he had little influence over Wright’s trade, allowing the 19-year-old striker and his agent to pick the best destination.

“There are things you can do, you can do your homework and share it with them ahead of time depending on where you are, how the coaching staff looks, how the linemates look , that kind of stuff,” he said. “But really at the end of the day we want him to go somewhere he wants to go. So letting him sort that out and make that decision was important to us and not say hey you gotta go here and then he’s going to that place and maybe he’s not happy so it’s about going to a place where he wanted to be and be happy and we’re glad he went to Windsor. that they have a good team, a good coach, I think he will do well there.

Wright, the fourth pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, has two points (one goal, one assist) in eight NHL games. He said the Kraken’s message was to focus on scoring.

“They want me to try to be a little more offensive,” Wright said. “I can take care of myself and play well defensively, but they want me to try to play a little more offensively, try to play a little more in the attacking zone, try to score a lot of goals, get as many points as I can. They think that should be my goal.

Francis said Wright having Marc Savard as a coach at Windsor would help in that regard.

“Marc, in his time playing, was a top-notch, smart attacking player,” Francis said. “Now you have Shane in that environment with a coach who was that kind of player in the NHL. So he has the guidance, the experience there. When I watched Windsor play, I liked the way Marc plays them in. He gives them some offensive freedom once they cross the red line in the blue line, but they definitely have structure in their game, especially on the defensive end in the zone. which are positive.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Anson ThortonG, Barrie (Arizona Coyotes): Thornton was named the OHL’s top goaltender for the month of December, and the 19-year-old has carried that game on into the new year. He made 32 saves in a 6-1 win over Flint on Thursday and is 8-0-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and one shutout in his last nine matches. Signed by the Coyotes as an undrafted free agent on Oct. 11, 2001, Thornton is 13-6-3 with a 3.18 GAA, .910 save percentage and one shutout in 22 games this season.

Maxim BarbaschevLW, Moncton (New York Rangers): Barbashev scored 11 goals during a nine-game streak that ended on Wednesday. It is his best streak in his three seasons in the QMJHL and the second longest in the history of a Moncton player. A fifth-round pick (No. 161) in the 2022 draft, the 19-year-old has scored 21 goals in 37 games this season, a big jump from the 15 he scored in 59 games last season.

Logan StankovenC, Kamloops (Dallas Stars): Stankoven returned after helping Canada win WJC gold and wasted no time rediscovering his scoring touch in the WHL. The 19-year-old had a goal and an assist in a 5-1 win over Kelowna on Jan. 7, then had a season-high five points (one goal, four assists) in a win of 6-3 against Vancouver on Wednesday. . The goal against Vancouver was his 100th in 155 WHL games. A second-round pick (No. 47) in the 2021 draft, Stankoven has 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists) in 23 games this season, with at least one point in Friday’s 22 starters.

Photos: Gerry Marentette/Windsor Spitfires; Allen Douglas

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