Wednesday buzz: Wright returning to Firebirds

Photo: Zak Krill

📝 by Patrick Williams

Shane Wright is returning to the Coachella Valley Firebirds as they gear up for one final push for the AHL regular-season title. The parent Seattle Kraken assigned Wright, the fourth overall pick in the 2022 National Hockey League Draft, to Coachella Valley following the completion of his Ontario Hockey League season.

The 19-year-old forward played five games with Coachella Valley on a conditioning assignment earlier in the year, collecting four goals. Wright’s return is something of an early surprise for the Firebirds after his Windsor Spitfires, a number-one seed going into the OHL postseason, fell in a first-round playoff sweep to Kitchener. Wright recorded 37 points in just 20 regular-season games with Windsor and added a goal and two assists in the playoffs.

Wright rejoins a Coachella Valley club that is looking to avoid having to play a best-of-three first-round series in the Pacific Division. The first-place finisher in the division earns a bye to the division semifinals, but the second-place club must face the seventh seed. The Firebirds are three points behind front-running Calgary with three games remaining.

Wright is one of six first-round picks from the 2022 draft currently in the AHL, joining Utica’s Simon Nemec (second overall), Cleveland’s David Jiricek (sixth), Milwaukee’s Joakim Kemell (17th), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Owen Pickering (21st) and Rochester’s Jiri Kulich (28th).

Rockford drew closer to securing a playoff berth with a big 6-3 win over Chicago last night.

With the victory, the IceHogs opened up a three-point lead over the Wolves for the fifth and final playoff position in the Central Division. Both teams finish the regular season this weekend with three games against the same opponents: Grand Rapids, Milwaukee and Manitoba.

Luke Philp netted a hat trick in last night’s win, which ended Rockford’s four-game losing streak to the Wolves. It also marked Chicago’s first regulation loss in its last nine contests (6-1-2-0).

The IceHogs also added goaltending depth yesterday when Drew Commesso elected to forego his senior season at Boston University and turn pro, signing a three-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks along with a tryout with the IceHogs for the remainder of 2022-23. Commesso, 20, finished with a 24-8-0 record and a 2.46 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 34 games for BU this season, helping the Terriers reach the Frozen Four, and also represented the United States at the 2022 Olympics. He was a second-round pick by the Blackhawks in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Forward Mackie Samoskevich is also on his way to the AHL, having signed a tryout with the Charlotte Checkers after two standout seasons at the University of Michigan.

The 24th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft recorded 43 points in 39 games this season as the Wolverines advanced to the Frozen Four.

The playoff-bound Checkers moved into third place in the Atlantic Division with a 4-3 win in Hershey last night. They will meet either Lehigh Valley, Springfield or Hartford in a best-of-three first-round series when the Calder Cup Playoffs open next week.