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Jackets scout Wright focused on building foundation

by Adam Kimelman

TORONTO -- As the director of amateur scouting for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tyler Wright certainly wants to find the best players he can at the 2012 NHL Draft.

But as a member of the first Blue Jackets team now in his fifth year working in the club's front office, he has a vested interest in the success of the team.

"I think being an original Blue Jacket, to start there, I felt grateful to the McConnell family [club owners] for giving me an opportunity," Wright told "It's where I really think I started my career. That was really the first chance I solidified myself as an NHL player. I'm grateful for that. I had five great years [playing] in Columbus.

"I want nothing more in my lifetime than to help bring the first Stanley Cup to Columbus and that's going to start on June 22."

"I want nothing more in my lifetime than to help bring the first Stanley Cup to Columbus and that's going to start on June 22."
-- Tyler Wright

Wright is in his first year of having the final say on who the Blue Jackets select in the draft, and it comes at a pivotal time for the franchise. Coming off the worst season in club history and finishing with the fewest points in the League, the Jackets have the second pick in the draft and an option on the Los Angeles Kings' selection, which will be No. 29 or No. 30, depending on the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Jackets also have two picks in the second round -- their own and Phoenix's -- giving the team a good opportunity to stockpile some quality prospects that can help as soon as the 2012-13 season.

"This is where you build your foundation of your hockey club," Wright said. "Every draft is important, but more importantly for myself, this is my first year being at the head of the table and making those decisions. So you want to make sure you cover every piece of the earth and turn over every stone possible. It's an exciting time for our franchise. We're really looking forward to it. We feel we're going to get some good, young, quality players. We're just making sure we're doing our due diligence."

Wright spent five of his 13 NHL seasons with the Blue Jackets, and after retiring in 2007, he took a job in the Blue Jackets' front office. He started as the club's development coach, but over the years has seen his role expand to scouting, to the point now that he's taking a lead role in the team's draft plans.

"There are players in this draft that are going to become excellent NHL players," Wright said. "It's my job, and our job as a scouting staff, that we identify those players no matter where they're ranked. It's our No. 1 focus, to find those players throughout the draft, decipher through it, make the picks, get it right and get this thing going in the right direction again."

They'll start with the second pick of the draft, which gives them the chance to get a game-breaking forward like Sarnia's Nail Yakupov or Alex Galchenyuk, Quebec's Mikhail Grigorenko or Leksand's Filip Forsberg. Or they could opt for one of the many highly talented defensemen, among them Everett's Ryan Murray, Moose Jaw's Morgan Rielly, Red Deer's Mathew Dumba, Ottawa's Cody Ceci, London's Olli Maatta, or Jacob Trouba of the U.S. National Team Development Program.

They also have to decide on the fate of the Kings' selection. The Jackets have until two picks prior to the Kings' spot to make their decision on whether to use the pick this year or next year. They also have the option of moving the pick.

"We haven't talked about that yet," Wright said regarding the Kings' pick. "It's more or less getting our list right. We've got a lot of work to do from now to the draft. We've got three weeks until the draft, a lot more interviewing to do, get our lists right and at that time we'll make a decision."

And there could be even more draft picks coming if the team is able to trade Rick Nash. The Blue Jackets captain requested a trade last season, and the haul could bring even more chances for Wright and his staff to bolster the Blue Jackets' prospect coffers.

With so much at stake, he understands there's a tremendous amount of pressure on him to pick the right players. However, he said he sees it more as an opportunity than something that's going to keep him up at night.


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"I love it," he said. "I'm a competitive person. I want to win. I want to win more than anything. I never had the luxury of winning a Stanley Cup as a player. I think there's nothing better than a big challenge of helping your general manager and franchise draft around his philosophy and our philosophy on how we want to win. That responsibility is big, but it's something I enjoy thoroughly. It's a great position and a great opportunity for me to get back into the competitive side of things."

Wright said the choice of who to take with the No. 2 pick will be a team effort. He said the final decision rests with GM Scott Howson, but Wright said Howson hasn't pushed him or his scouts toward any particular player.

"We're the guys that are out there watching these kids on a daily basis," Wright said. "Not just on a one-time viewing … we've seen these kids on multiple viewings. Obviously I think he's going to let us make the decision on where we want to go.

"We're going to make this as a group decision. We're going to back what his thoughts are [but] at the end of the day I'll give my thoughts on who I like and we'll go from there."

Wright also said he'll be leaning on senior advisor Craig Patrick for advice. Wright spent parts of four seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins when Patrick was their GM.

"Just pick his brain, just sit down and listen to the stories," Wright said. "He was the general manger in Pittsburgh for 13, 14 years, won the Stanley Cup. He's seen everything go down. He's made some of the biggest trades … he's drafted players -- [Jaromir] Jagr at five, [Brian] Leetch for the Rangers at nine. You'd be a fool not to listen to this. If you can pull one little tidbit from an experience that he went through to help you … that's what I'm doing, just sitting back and listening. He's a very wise man."

Wright said he's enjoying the process of building his base of knowledge, including meeting the draft prospects here at the NHL Scouting Combine. Beyond that, however, he understands how important the 2012 NHL Draft is to the future of the Blue Jackets.

"You want the best player possible," he said. "You want the best player that's going to come into your hockey club and help you win a Stanley Cup. That's the way we're trying to build. … We've just got to get it right."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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