Cole Perfetti feeling ready for the next level after the golden finish of a strange season
WINNIPEG – Winnipeg Jets prospect Cole Perfetti is one step ahead of what he thought was in his development at this point in his career after an unlikely season that saw him start his professional career earlier provided that.
His season ended with a gold medal on Team Canada at the World Hockey Championship in Riga, Latvia.
“It was a real eye opener for me to realize that I am not far in strength. I can play now and it will only get better as the summer goes on. Perfetti reflected on his season during his press briefing on Thursday.
In a typical year, the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft would likely have spent another season playing Major Junior with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League where he amassed 37 goals. and 74 assists for 11 points in 61 games with the Spirit. in 2019-2020.
While Perfetti was able to play for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, COVID-19 forced the OHL’s season to be outright canceled, making it the only Canadian Hockey League affiliate not to have no form of competition. As a result, Perfetti found himself, somewhat unexpectedly, on the bill for American Hockey League Jets affiliate Manitoba Moose before joining Team Canada in Latvia. An experience he surely wouldn’t have had playing another season in the OHL.
“I wouldn’t be in the position I am in if I was still playing in the OHL,” Perfetti said.
“Don’t get me wrong, the OHL is an incredible league and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. But it’s just about playing against men, with that strength and speed … you have to experience it and that’s what’s going to help you take it to the next level. Being able to do that at 19 was very important to me.
True to the “unlikely developments” theme, the Men’s National Team, made up of no true NHL stars, became the first team in tournament history to win gold after starting the tournament 0-3. Perfetti, although he didn’t play as big a role as he did with the Moose, scored 2 goals in 10 games for the Team Canada men’s team, which beat Finland 3- 2 in an overtime thriller to win gold.
“Being on the ice was crazy. I remember I couldn’t get over the boards fast enough when (Nick Paul) scored. I was dying to get over the boards, throw my gloves in the air and start partying. There was so much excitement, so much joy. It was incredible, ”said Perfetti.
“Winning never gets old and I haven’t done that in a few years, so it was a pretty cool feeling, finally getting a gold medal and winning with Hockey Canada. “
In a sense, the gold medal was redemption for Perfetti who won a silver medal at the world junior championships after losing to the United States in the final.
“Coming in (to the final game) I thought we were going to win a gold medal that night and I had a gold medal in mind. Seeing that doesn’t happen – I’ve dreamed of a gold medal all my life – and it was difficult, ”Perfetti recalls.
“Obviously, continuing in this tournament, we were in the gold (medal game) and we went into overtime. All I could think of was never to have that feeling of losing again. I just wanted to finally get a gold medal. Luckily we did and winning is way better than losing in the gold medal game for sure.
As short and unpredictable as his season has been, Perfetti believes the experience has allowed him to close the gap on his NHL dream at a much faster pace than if he had played another year at the junior level.
“There were some things I had to do to prepare for the NHL. But playing this year with me and playing at the world championships and being able to make games, score goals, be a contributor and most of all, play with strength and speed, that’s where I was like, “I don’t know not if I’m ‘strong enough?’ It’s a men’s league, but playing the last five months with the Moose and with Team Canada here, I’ve realized that I can handle the strength, I can handle the speed, ”said Perfetti.
“It was a real eye-opener for me to realize that I am not far off in strength.”
And the advantage he has gained through the opportunities this year is not lost for a young striker who could just as easily have lost an important year of development.
“COVID has closed many children’s hockey opportunities this year. A lot of my close friends at Saginaw and the OHL couldn’t even play hockey. They lost a whole year of development. It’s their draft year or if they are (players too old), whatever, they haven’t been able to play hockey and they have lost an important year in their development in order to take the next step. said Perfetti.
“It’s been a pretty busy year. In a year when a lot of kids didn’t have the chance and suffered, I was lucky to have chances and get development and take the next step, to become a best hockey player. I am very grateful for it and realize it every step of the way.
Perfetti is now back home in Ontario in preparation for the Jets’ training camp this fall, where he hopes to trade his Manitoba Moose jersey for one of the Winnipeg Jets.