Cole Perfetti already has a chip on his shoulder
Not many people out there expected Cole Perfetti to be available when the Jets were on the clock with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft Tuesday night.
Maybe not even general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff himself.
But when he was indeed available at the time of the Jets pick, Cheveldayoff couldn’t get himself to the podium to relay the pick any faster.
“It was an exciting couple of picks before when you see the players kind of falling into place. I think there’s obviously a lot of talent in the top 10. When we knew we would be selecting in the top 10, we felt pretty good about it,” said Cheveldayoff. “As the draft went along we felt even better about it and as it came our pick, I might have sprinted to the podium.”
When the Jets moved from the 12th to 10th pick thanks to the draft lottery, Cheveldayoff and company knew they would have their choice at some of the top talent in the draft, but none of whom bring to the table what Perfetti does.
The 18-year old Perfetti knows his value and what it’s worth. Some expected Perfetti to go fourth overall after the big three of Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield and Tim Stuetzle, but that honor went to Lucas Raymond.
If not fourth, maybe somewhere between say fifth and eighth?
Not so much...
Perfetti patiently watched as Jake Sanderson went to Ottawa, Jamie Drysdale to Anaheim, Alexander Holtz to New Jersey, Jack Quinn to Buffalo and Marco Rossi to Minnesota.
Then finally, with the 10th overall pick the Winnipeg Jets called his name.
“Obviously I’m ecstatic to be a Winnipeg Jet, but there was nine other teams that passed on me and I’m going to come in and try to prove myself and at the end of the day try to be the best player in this draft and leave a legacy,” Perfetti said shortly after being drafted Tuesday night.
“I think it’s going to come by coming in with a chip on my shoulder and playing hungry and hard and establishing that I can make an impact at the next level. It’s going to be important for me to do that right away and I think I can and I’m excited too. But I definitely want to prove everyone wrong that passed on me and I’m excited to be a Jet.”
Starting things off on the right foot with Jets fans I see.
As a natural centerman, Perfetti can do it all. He can score, he can pass, he can skate and he brings a certain edge to his game that ties it all together. But where Perfetti really shines is with his hockey IQ.
Earlier this year Perfetti was awarded the Bobby Smith Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League’s Scholastic Player of the Year. This past academic year Perfetti took several college-level classes at Saginaw Heritage High School and All Saints Catholic School in Whitby.
“The way my brain works in the classroom or even in a Rubik’s Cube it helps on the ice. I definitely see a correlation with how my academics are and how that directly correlates with how fast I process on the ice and how fast I think on the ice,” said Perfetti. “Academics are a big thing for me and my family and I’ve always taken that very seriously. I definitely think that expanding your knowledge and improving your brain in the classroom will definitely translate right onto the ice.”
Young players making their way through the journey that leads to being drafted are often compared to current NHL players, Perfetti is no different.
Perfetti’s head coach with the Saginaw Spirit Chris Lazary compared his game to Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov. But as much as Perfetti appreciates being compared to Kucherov, it’s another member of the Tampa Bay Lightning that Perfetti has paid close attention to.
“To be compared to Kucherov is pretty special. Obviously what he does is remarkable on the ice. But who I’ve been trying to, especially as of late has been Brayden Point. I think we play a similar game in the way we use our brain, our hockey IQ. We’re not the biggest guys but we definitely use our playmaking ability to get around the ice and be impactful,” said Perfetti.
“So I think I’ve been trying to emulate my game like him. I have been picking out parts of his game and trying to put them into mine. What he’s done in the last year and especially this playoff run goes to show you how the game is going and how smart and how fast you can be and how dominate you can be when you have those tools.”
It’s easy to watch Perfetti and form your own idea of who Cole Perfetti the player is. It’s maybe easier to do a quick google search and read the scouting reports on him as well. But it’s always fun to hear what a draftee has to say about his game.
“I think first and foremost you’re going to get a kid that’s pretty eager and hungry to make the jump. Going to come in with a chip on my shoulder and try to make an impact as soon as I can,” Perfetti said of his game. “You’re going to get a 200-foot player, but definitely a guy that uses his brain and hockey IQ in the offensive zone and has that ability to score from my shot in tight. I kind of have that dual threat, but it’s definitely my hockey IQ and my playmaking ability that makes me who I am.”
By drafting Perfetti, the Jets fill a need of a young talented two-way center. While Perfetti is just that, he has experience playing the wing. Although he is more comfortable playing down the middle and prefers it, he says whatever head coach Paul Maurice asks of him, he’s willing to do it.
“I prefer center, I think I’m a better centerman and make more of an impact there. But at the end of the day I’ve played center and wing my entire life,” said Perfetti. “Whatever the coach wants, whatever Maurice wants I’ll be excited to do so and come in and be happy and hungry for sure.”
While Perfetti is likely like a year or two away from making his NHL debut with the Jets, you can’t blame Perfetti for getting excited by the thought of playing alongside some of the Jets more talented offensive weapons.
"The roster is pretty impressive, there’s a lot of great guys you can play with up and down the lineup that would be a lot of fun to play with. Each is so unique,” he said. “Whether you’re playing with [Mark] Scheifele, [Andrew] Copp, [Blake] Wheeler or [Patrik] Laine for that matter, there’s so many great players. To be able to think of even playing with those guys gives me the goosebumps and it will be a lot of fun, I think we will work well together."
After an early exit in the playoffs last month, this offseason is an important one for the Jets.
They’re already off to a good start.