Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Dec. 21, prior to the cancelation of the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Shane Wright remembers the first arm he was asked to autograph.
“It was a forearm. I’ve signed a couple of them, actually,” he said. “Signing people’s skin has been a little weird for me.”
Wright, 17, is a center for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. He’s also the consensus pick to go first overall in the 2022 NHL draft. An autograph on a forearm would seem like a precursor to permanence: It’s possible someone would turn that signature into a tattoo, in honor of the NHL’s next young star.
“I don’t know about that,” said Wright, with a laugh. “I hope no one goes that far.”
That fanatic attention comes with the territory. Wright was 15 years old when he first saw himself on a hockey card, the same age at which he was granted “exceptional player” status into the OHL for the 2019-20 season. He was the sixth player ever granted that early admission into the league, joining names like John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid, whose rookie points-per-game record he shattered with 66 points in 58 games.
So the fans want Wright to sign their cards, the posters, their sticks, their jerseys — and on occasion, their limbs.
“It’s definitely weird,” he said.
There have been 55 players taken first overall in the NHL draft. Of those, 40 were forwards. Of those, 29 were Canadian like Wright, a native of Burlington, Ontario.
If the projections are accurate, Wright is about to join that exclusive club. He’s already experiencing all the weirdness that comes with it.