Once in a blue moon, we get a prospect that can put himself on the world stage before they having even turned 16 years of age. Players like Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad and John Tavares have been can’t miss talent all their lives and in NHL radars since the age of 13. In Canada, many of these top players receive Exceptional Status.
This status allows a Canadian player to enter the Canadian Hockey League a year early, so at 15-years-old rather than 16-years-old. Since 2005, when Tavares was the first to be granted with this status, it has been given out only four more times. McDavid, Ekblad and Tavares all received it, plus Sean Day and Joe Veleno.
With Joe Veleno being the latest of the five back in 2015, it’s quite possible that we are due for another in 2019. Although, we are now looking at the possibility of not one but two exceptional players hitting the CHL in 2019. Never have two players received Exceptional Status in the same season, but 14-year-old’s Matthew Savoie and Shane Wright might be the firsts pair to do so.
December 1st was the deadline for players to submit their applications for Exceptional Status. After a few days, on December 3rd, our suspicions were confirmed that both Savoie and Wright had applied, courtesy of TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger who broke the news. Matthew Savoie, a St. Albert, Alberta native, looks to be the first exceptional WHLer while Shane Wright, a Burlington, Ontario native, could be the 5th OHLer.
It is now official. Matthew Savoie is applying for Exceptional Status in the WHL. From everything I’ve seen it’s highly likely he will get it and become the first exceptional WHLer. The 14 y/o and 2004 born player is 4th in CSSHL scoring behind three 17 y/os. pic.twitter.com/J6IGpEb72r
— TPEHockey (@TPEHOCKEY) November 30, 2018
We now have confirmation that Shane Wright is the 2nd player to apply for Exceptional Status, this time with the OHL. The 2004 birth year is the top Ontario player for the 2003 age group as he plays up a year. At this point, there is no reason Wright shouldn’t get the status. pic.twitter.com/0Q6uHRTUqk
— TPEHockey (@TPEHOCKEY) December 3, 2018
Both prospects are January of 2004 born players, both missing a 2003 birth by under a week. Unlike the NHL, the age cutoff for the CHL is by year, January 1st, rather than on September 15th. Each then are eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft too, so that could be a great draft and a crazy showdown for 1st overall.
Matthew Savoie is the player that’s been on the scouting and NHL radars for the longest time. For years, he’s been a must know name in Albert youth hockey circles and a college hockey prospect as in the past, he expressed his desire to play in the NCAA. He also has an older brother, Carter, who is my 30th ranked prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft.
He plays in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and intends to go to the University of Denver. Matthew originally intended to try to gain entry in the AJHL rather than WHL a year early so that he could play with his brother and likely head to the NCAA afterwards. Although applying for Exceptional Status in the AJHL is not allowed, he decided to apply to the WHL.
The Northern Alberta X-Treme center plays stylistically similar to many of the superstars in today’s NHL. His skating is reminiscent of Connor McDavid in his straight line skating ability and to Sidney Crosby in terms of agility and edge work. He’s a great passer and distributor of the puck too. He’s got every quality you want in a player projecting out to be a star in the future.
With Savoie, there is no reason he shouldn’t receive Exceptional Status. This season, he is 4th in points in his league, the CSSHL. He sits only behind three 17-year-old’s who all play on the same line. Keep in mind, he’s 14.
Savoie is also ahead of the 1st overall pick in the last WHL Bantam Draft, Dylan Guenther. He is clearly ready for WHL action and would have been a no brainer for the first pick in the previous draft even if he wasn’t a year younger.
Shane Wright is a pure playmaking force on the ice. His playmaking intelligence is on a different level than any other prospect we’ve seen at this age. He thinks the game quicker and better than his competition and it makes him unstoppable.
His mind isn’t his only tool. He’s a very good skater and has slick puck skills. He’s not an overly fancy player, but he makes the right moves. I’m not going to go too much into detail on Wright though.
I wrote an entire piece on Shane Wright in my Future Phenoms series that you can read by clicking here. The short version of it is that Shane Wright should receive the status.
Watch this goal from Shane Wright at the Silver Stick Tourney. Wright is a lock for @HockeyCanada Exceptional Status to enter the OHL next year as a 14-15 y/o. He’s also my #2 guy for the #2022NHLDraft. See Wright’s game breaking eye for the ice which has earned his high status. https://t.co/nl2zTfOhki
— TPEHockey (@TPEHOCKEY) November 26, 2018
There were others that there were rumors of their applications too. Adam Fantilli was the big candidate outside of the two, but he did not apply. It’s considered that he would not have gotten it. He’s not on the level of Shane Wright, but he’s certainly a great player.
The problem is that he’s 21 days off from being a full year younger than Savoie, being born on December 10th of 2004. He would have been 14 in the OHL for over two months. There was also the idea that Tristan Luneau for the QMJHL was a possibility. Luneau would, in my mind, not have gotten it. He’s my 6th ranked prospect for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
The overall consensus is that both Shane Wright and Matthew Savoie are worthy of the exceptional status title. For the first time ever, we are going to see two players declared exceptional by the Hockey Canada organization. Furthermore, we are going to see one of the most exciting drafts ahead come 2022.
The hockey world is about to be taken by storm by these two players. If they aren’t household names already, they sure will be very soon.