Having only played a grand total of 50 regular season junior hockey games, James Wright of the Vancouver Giants has already tasted the glory of winning what many consider to be the hardest trophy to win in all of sports, the Memorial Cup.
“It was an unbelievable experience and one that I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Wright, who scored two goals in Vancouver’s semifinal win against the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League.
But the native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is well aware that he was very fortunate to win the Cup in his rookie season, when several players never even get the opportunity to do so in their entire junior careers.
“It’s tougher to appreciate it when there were players on our team who were in the league for five years and this was there first time winning and to win it as a 16-year-old in your first year, I don’t think you can appreciate it as much,” said Wright.
Wright began skating in his backyard at the age of four and began playing organized hockey at the age of five. He was drafted ninth overall by the Vancouver Giants in the 2005 Western Hockey League bantam draft. The center played a full season with the Midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts before joining the Giants full time this past season. Wright thanks his parents for his development as a hockey player and as a person.
“My parents have always been there to support me and to back my decisions. They helped me progress through my career and have made the extra effort to be there for me,” said Wright.
Wright, who is among the select list of highly regarded prospects for the 2008 NHL entry draft that are currently overseas representing their country at the National Men’s Summer Under-18 Championship, is adamant that the added pressure of a draft year will not affect his game.
“The thought of being drafted will always be in the back of your mind but during the season I feel you have to put that aside in favor of playing for your team,” said Wright. “Just to be drafted would be a great honor, so I feel any team that is willing to pick me, I would be more than happy to play for.”
Wright has already drawn rave comparisons to a number of established National Hockey League players, most notably to Mike Modano of the Dallas Stars.
“It is an honor to be compared to one of the great players of the game. I feel that I would like to model my game after players like Modano and Sakic, who are strong two-way centers and are admired by their teammates,” said Vancouver’s scholastic player of the year.
As JD Watt – Wright’s line-mate for the majority of the season with Vancouver – explains, he is exactly that.
“James has incredible speed and a knack for getting the puck to the net, said Watt. What really surprised me about playing alongside him and Lance Bouma this year, was their willingness to go into corners and battle for pucks. James is a smart hockey player; his intelligence for the game and quickness on the ice are going to take him a long ways.”
Watt, who was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 2005 and traded to the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL early this off-season, went on to say:
“I looked forward to coming to the rink and playing with those two every day. James is very humble; he listens, learns and gives his best effort every shift. I couldn’t have asked much more from a young line-mate, he’s a very tough guy not to like.”
Farhan Devji is the author of a hockey based novel, “The Hockey Farmer.” For more information, visit thehockeyfarmer.ca.tp.