From being the top overall picks in their respective league drafts to playing for Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge this week, 2019 has been anything but normal for 15-year-old forwards Shane Wright and Matthew Savoie.
While the pair are already considered to be the best players in their age group and are expected to be dominant talents in the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League before being selected in the 2022 NHL Draft, the hype the surrounds them is something they are taking in stride.
“It’s definitely exciting and all of the attention is something that I enjoy as I love to get after it every time I’m on the ice,” Savoie said.
“It was a bit crazy at times when everything took place around the OHL Draft but I think like things have started to go back to normal for me now that the season is underway,” Wright said.
Wright, who calls Burlington, Ont. home, is the sixth player to be granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada and enter the Canadian Hockey League a year early.
After being selected with the first overall pick by the Kingston Frontenacs in April, Wright has put up 11 points in 14 games in his rookie campaign in the OHL and is tied for second in team scoring.
“When I first heard the news that I had been granted exceptional status in March, it was a pretty exciting time for our entire family,” said Wright, who joins John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, Sean Day and Joe Veleno in earning that distinction.
“I feel like I’m getting used to things in Kingston, especially when it comes to playing with new guys that I had to build up chemistry with. That was something I had to adjust to early, along with the overall pace of the game.”
As for Savoie, who is from St. Albert, Alta., his 2019-20 campaign has been an interesting one.
After reportedly not being granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada, he had committed to play for the NCAA’s Denver Pioneers but elected to sign with the Winnipeg Ice in June after they selected him with the first overall pick in the WHL Bantam Draft a month earlier.
He’s since moved to Winnipeg and is splitting time with the Ice and the Rink Hockey Academy prep program in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
“It’s my first year being away from home so that’s been a bit of a change for me, but I’m keeping a positive attitude and I’m enjoying things in Winnipeg so far,” Savoie said.
Savoie has one assist in five games thus for the Ice and has put up 20 points in 7 games for Rink.
“It’s been a great development year for me so far as playing in the WHL has allowed me to learn new systems and have the chance to play against bigger and faster guys,” Savoie said.
“It’s definitely a lot different up in the WHL. Everything is more professional and the level of play is something that I keep adjusting to each time that I play.”
The pair also have an excellent support system around them, as their teammates and family make sure that they aren’t overwhelmed during their transition to major junior hockey.
“My parents (Simon and Tanya) have done an amazing job of keeping my head on straight during the whole process, along with my teammates in Don Mills (with the Minor Midget Flyers) and in Kingston,” Wright said. “They’ve kept me grounded and made sure that I’m still the same person.”
“My brother Carter (who plays for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Sherwood Park Crusaders) has helped me out quite a bit, along with our parents (Scott and Jody),” Savoie added. “There’s also a great leadership group with the Ice and (second year forward) Connor McClennon has been a great role model for me as he’s been through this tournament last year and given me a lot of advice already.”
Heading into Thursday’s quarter-final games at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Wright led Canada Black in scoring with five points in three contests and Savoie was second on Canada White’s point chart with four assists in three round-robin affairs.
Wright is taking on Russia in Medicine Hat Thursday night, while Savoie is in Swift Current to face a Canada Red side that includes Prince Albert Raiders’ blueliner Nolan Allan.