THE WRIGHT MAN FOR COLUMBUS
The Vegas Golden Knights will see the majority of the team’s roster take shape on Wednesday when they announce their 30 selections in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. The newest NHL franchise will select one player from each of the other existing teams to bulk up their player pool as they enter their first season of play.
(There’s more info on the entire expansion draft process over on our blog – Skating on the Susquehanna).
The last time the league held an expansion draft was back in 2000 when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets were gearing up for their first forays into the hockey world. Each team selected 26 players – one from every existing team, minus the recently formed Atlanta Thrashers and Nashville Predators.
That draft came just months after the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins inaugural season came to an end, and fans in NEPA saw a fan favorite change his zip code as a result.
With the 31st overall pick in the 2000 expansion draft, the Blue Jackets snatched up former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton captain Tyler Wright.
Selected 12th overall by the Edmonton Oilers int he 1991 Entry Draft, Wright made his pro debut with with the Oilers in late 1993. He split the next three seasons between Edmonton and Cape Breton (AHL), earning a reputation as a pest with some scoring touch.
Wright was acquired by Pittsburgh on June 22, 1996 for a seventh round pick in that year’s entry draft, and split his first season between the Penguins and their then minor league affiliate, the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League.
Wright spent the entirety of the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons with Pittsburgh, but found himself the odd man out as training camp came to a close in the fall of 1999, and he was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
After going scoreless in 61 games with Pittsburgh in 1998-99, Wright found his scoring touch once again with the newly-formed AHL club, recording 20 points (5+15) in 25 games.
Wright’s final game with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton came on December 17, 1999, in a 2-1 win over the Albany River Rats. He was summoned back to Pittsburgh after that victory, and spent the rest of the season with the NHL club.
Wright provided valuable leadership and a calming presence during his time in Northeast Pennsylvania. Wearing the captain’s ‘C’, he was a veteran voice of encouragement to a team that struggled to find wins in the early going.
And his influence is still felt to this day around the rink. Current Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos, a rookie during Wright’s tenure with the team, wore 25 during his first season. However, he adopted Wright’s sweater number 29 the following year, the number he still wears to this day.
Wright finished the 1999-00 season with 22 points (12+10) in 50 games with Pittsburgh, all career highs up until that point.
That performance may have piqued the interest of the Blue Jackets, who made Wright a centerpiece of the team for the next four-plus seasons. He recorded 104 points (57+47) in 291 games with Columbus between 2000 and 2004 and became a pillar in the community, establishing the Hats for Heroes program to help in the fight against pediatric cancer.
Wright began the 2005-06 season in Columbus, but was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for Sergei Fedorov early in the season. He had a short stint playing in Switzerland in 2006-07, before retiring and going the Blue Jackets hockey operations staff as director of player development. He holds that same position today with the Detroit Red Wings.