By Jim Charshafian
When a young hockey player is traded for the first time in his career, it can be very easy for him to get down on himself as he leaves the only organization he’s been associated with for a completely new and unknown franchise.
James Wright, who found himself in that situation when he was acquired by the Rampage from the Norfolk Admirals last December, only focused on the positives, and the results were positive as well. The 22-year-old center tallied 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 54 games with San Antonio during the remainder of the regular season and then added seven more (three goals, four assists) in 10 playoff games.
“Any time there’s a trade you have to look it as a good thing,” said Wright. “The team that wanted you got you. The coach you’re going to play for doesn’t really know what kind of player you are unless you’ve played against them, which I hadn’t, so I had to come in and show what type of player I am, what I bring to the table, and my identity. I think I was able to do that, and, progressively, I got more and more comfortable.”
Wright was rewarded for his stellar play with a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers in mid-July. The second year of Wright’s new pact is a one-way deal with the Panthers, who believe that he will be a fixture of their team by the time the 2013-14 season rolls around.
“I was really happy to get the deal done,” said Wright. “I’m really excited to have two more years with the organization.”
After taking two weeks off following the Rampage’s last game in May, Wright headed back to his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to prepare for the 2012-13 campaign. His goal during his offseason preparation has been to get stronger so he can withstand the rigors of another 76-game schedule, and, hopefully, another playoff run.
“I’m trying to build muscle mass, which I’ll have to maintain throughout the year,” he said. “Right now, I’m transitioning more into cardio as well.”
With the start of training camp less than two months away, Wright is already looking forward to getting back on the ice and demonstrating to the coaching staff how he’s improved over the summer.
“I’m just ready for the season to start. Training camp gives you a good opportunity to showcase the things you’ve done in your summer training and how you’ve prepared yourself. I’m looking forward to getting back at it and playing some competitive games again. I play a little bit with my friends from home just for fun, but I miss that competitiveness and the urgency that comes with every game.”
Wright’s preference is to crack the Panthers lineup this fall instead of waiting for another year to do so, but regardless of where he plays, he wants to make sure he is playing his best hockey.
“You go into camp and you try to make the [Panthers],” he said. “That’s everyone’s goal, obviously. If I make it, I want to be a consistent player who produces at that level. If not, then I’ll go down to San Antonio and be an effective player for them. I’ll try to help them get back to the playoffs again and go farther than we did last year.”