It’s been a week full of signings for the San Antonio Rampage. On Tuesday, the Florida Panthers resigned three players and Wednesday the organization extended the contracts of Head Coach Chuck Weber and Assistant Coach Jason Cipolla. Tuesday the both Goaltender Brian Foster and Defenseman Mike Caruso agreed to brand new one-year, two-way contracts with the club. In addition to signing that duo, the Panthers extended the contract of Forward James Wright for the next two years as well.
James Wright made his junior hockey debut with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL) for two games during the 2005-06 season. The following fall, he returned to Vancouver to play his first full season with the Giants. In the 48 regular season games Wright appeared in during his rookie campaign, he picked up 5 goals and 7 assists. The Giants made quite the post season run that season, making it all the way to the WHL Finals where they fought hard during the seven game series with the Medicine Hat Tigers but didn’t come out on top. However, as hosts of the Memorial Cup Tournament, the Giants were still in the running for the Memorial Cup. The final matchup was a replay of the WHL Finals, but this time the Giants emerged the victors in front of a crowd of 16,000. Throughout the 2006-07 post season, James Wright scored three goals in a total of 14 games. Two of those goals came in the Memorial Cup Semi-Final against the Plymouth Whalers and helped get the team to the final matchup. Wright continued to improve during his sophomore season in the WHL. He played in 60 games for Vancouver and tallied 36 points throughout the course of the 2007-08 season. While with the Giants, James caught the eye of the Tampa Bay Lightning and was the organization’s 4th round (117th overall) pick during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. That following October Wright found himself in Vancouver playing alongside his Giants teammates once again. His numbers continued to improve. He tallied 47 points (21 G, 26 A) during the regular season, adding another 17 games and 10 points during the playoffs 2009 playoffs.
Wright attended Tampa Bay’s training camp in September of 2009. He made quite the impression and signed his 3 year entry level contract with the team before camp ended. The 6-foot-4 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native found himself in the Lightning’s line up when the puck dropped to start the season against the Atlanta Thrashers. 7 games into the season, Wright was able to pick up his first NHL goal. He added one more goal in his first 48 NHL games before rejoining the Vancouver Giants at the end of January. He continued his development, just as the Lightning wished, over a span of 21 regular season and 17 playoff games with the Giants. He furthered his development with Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate the Norfolk Admirals the next season, playing in 80 games tallying 16 goals and 31 assists for the club in the regular season and adding another goal during the post season. James began the season once again with the Admirals when the 2011-12 season started. He appeared in 22 games with Norfolk before he and teammate Mike Vernace were traded to the Florida Panthers organization in early December for Panthers prospects Mike Kostka and Evan Oberg. Vernace and Wright joined Florida’s AHL affiliate and spent the remainder of the season in San Antonio playing for the Rampage. Wright found his spot instantly, picking up his first point for the silver and black during his first game with his new team. He assisted on an additional 16 goals and added 11 goals of his own in 54 games with San Antonio. The 22-year-old Centre continued to rack up the points during the playoffs, adding another 3 goals and 4 assists during 10 post season appearances.
Both the Panthers and Rampage must be happy with Wright’s ability to play a solid offensive and defensive game. He plays with a lot of heart and grit and definitely earned his new two-year deal. Fans should be excited to watch James’ development continue which will hopefully land him a full time role in the NHL someday.
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