It took a while, but Tyler Wright finally proved he could be a valuable NHL player.
The key player on a strong WHL Swift Current Broncos in the early 1990s, Wright was selected 12th overall in the 1991 Entry Draft. The spirited junior star was expected to become an aggressive two way 2nd line center, much along the lines of a Brent Sutter, Michael Peca, or Dale Hunter.
But things did not get as planned as Wright played mostly a 4th line agitator role with the Oilers and later Pittsburgh and Columbus, as well as the various minor league teams along the way.
It appeared his NHL career was basically over after the 1998-99 season. He played in 61 games with the Pens, but, get this, he failed to pick up a single point. 61 games. Not a single goal. Not even one helper.
Wright came back after being surprised by another contract offer with the Pens. He tried his hardest in training camp but, as everyone expected, was sent to the minor leagues.
On December 8, 1999, or more accurately about a week later, got an early Christmas present. Pittsburgh fired head coach Kevin Constantine and replaced him with Herb Brooks. Days later Wright got called back up.
"Getting sent down was the best thing that could have happened to me" he admitted. "It gave me a chance to find my game. It was the first time since I was 19 that I had a big part to play with on a team."
The confidence boost was dramatic. Wright posted his best totals - 12 goals, 22 assists and 34 points in just 50 games. He played a third line role with Rene Corbet and Matthew Barnaby.
Assistant coach Rick Kehoe admired Wright. "I give Tyler a lot of credit. He went down and worked harder than he had in a long time, maybe ever. He got the offensive part of his game back. He has been a bonus for us. Tyler does everything he has to do to help the team."
Wright believes it is all about opportunity.
"I was never really given a chance in Edmonton" said Wright. " Here (in Pittsburgh) it was very frustrating because you sit there and you're ready to do anything for you team, but you realize you might not even dress."
In 2000 Tyler Wright joined the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets. In Ohio he was allowed to play more and more, and was rewarded with more respectable offensive output. Over four full seasons he would score 57 times and assist on 47 others while playing his gritty defensive game and developing into a real team leader.
Wright would end his career with half a season in Anaheim, but returned to Columbus upon retirement and worked as a development coach. He later joined the Detroit Red Wings as a scout.