Cole Perfetti is having a dream draft season.
Perfetti ended Sunday as the OHL’s second leading scorer with a line of 37-73-110 in just 61 games. His team the Saginaw Spirit is on an 8-1-1 run after grinding out a 4-3 win in Erie on Sunday. He scored a beautiful goal and added two assists to help the Spirit retain their spot on top of the West Division. The Spirit lead the Flint Firebirds by five points with both teams having six games left.
Perfetti was kind enough to talk with the Hockey Writers after Sunday’s win in Erie. We started with his mindset on a goal he helped to create. We ended with why teams should draft him with many other great talents available in the same range. And in the middle, I gave him a chance to address concerns some seem to have with his game.
Without further ado, let Perfetti tell you where he stands as we inch ever closer to the 2020 NHL Draft.
Q&A With Cole Perfetti
The Hockey Writers: Let’s start with the 2-1 goal where Damien Giroux scored. Most in your spot would have shot the puck from that spot. You chose pass. Did you see Giroux the whole time?
Perfetti: “That was a weird bounce that squirted right out to me. Three guys came at me. Giroux was just getting up off his knees. He just stood up and I found him. He tried to sling it to his stick and put it into an empty net. It was a good play by him to get open. He does that well. He gets open in front of the net.”
THW: You scored your 37th goal of the season today. You scored 37 last year. But you have doubled your assist total. What do you attribute your playmaking to this season?
Perfetti: “Just confidence this year, a lot more confidence, a lot more time and space. Last year I was getting rid of pucks a lot quicker than I should have. I think I’m delaying and holding the puck down low and am able to find the open guy. Obviously I play with great players. I played with great players last year too but this year I’ve been more of a pass first guy where as last year I was a bit more of a shoot first guy. I’ve kind of changed my game a little bit to become a pass first guy. The stats show that. It’s been good so far. It’s a really good blend of shooting and passing.”
THW: From a distance, it seems you’ve played this season with a chip on your shoulder. Do you feel you have something to prove to everyone?
Perfetti: “Skill guys often get the rap that they don’t want to play tough or go to the tough areas. They kind of get pushed around especially last year the older guys in the league were definitely trying to take advantage of me especially near the end of the year. I told myself at the beginning of the year no one is going to take liberty on me. No one is going to take advantage of me. So if someone takes a cheap shot I’m going to stick up for myself. Luckily I have not gotten into a fight this year. Everyone has got my back on this team. We’re a real close knit group. I think that’s what makes us so special. I just like to prove to everyone that I’ll go to the dirty areas and play with a bit of an edge.”
THW: Here in Erie, we cover Jamie (Drysdale) so we see how hectic his season has been in terms of schedule, meetings and constant chaos. How crazy and hectic has this season been for you?
Perfetti: “It’s been a lot, it’s been hectic. But it’s been fun though. It’s been exhausting travelling. I can only imagine for Jamie (Drysdale) too going overseas. It’s been a lot of fun though. You only get your draft year once so I’m trying to soak every experience up. The Top Prospects game. The OHL game, World Juniors camp and stuff like that. It’s stuff to add to the resume and a lot of learning experiences I can use for the future so it was real fun to go to those and use them for my experiences.”
THW: So when you get a chance to unwind and disconnect from hockey, what do you like to do?
Perfetti: “Just hang out with family and friends. Whether it’s playing video games or going golfing, hanging out in my pool in the backyard or having the guys over whatever it is, just spending time with the people that are close to me. If it’s not at the rink it’s spending time with family and friends.”
THW: So I’ll give you a chance to address something. Some out there believe that you aren’t fast enough for the next level. What do you say to those people who don’t believe you have the speed you’ll need for the NHL?
Perfetti: “I might not be the fastest out of the gates but once I pick up speed I’m just as fast as a lot of guys out there. The one thing I can do to compete and still be above the opponents is my hockey sense and knowledge. I can go to the right areas and go to the right spots even though without having to be a guy with speed I can use my skill or brain or hockey IQ to get to the right area or right spot. I’ll find the open guy or put the puck in the net. So speed is obviously a big aspect in hockey but being able to play where the puck is going to go and not just following the puck all around is more important. I think definitely my brain is what helps me.”
THW: What other areas are you really focusing to improve on before we get to Montreal and the NHL Draft?
Perfetti: “Yeah just getting stronger, getting in the gym a little more, becoming a man just trying to get that man strength. Everything else will develop as I go as long as I hit the gym and fuel my body the right way and get that aspect of my game up it will help make the transition for sure.”
THW: And last one. We know teams at the top of the draft are going to have a tough decision to make with a lot of talent to choose from. Why should they take Cole Perfetti?
Perfetti: “I think they should pick me because of my combination of work ethic, hockey IQ, leadership and the ability to be a good guy. I just like to have a good time with the guys and be a friendly dude and just hang out with them and be nice to everyone and have fun. My work ethic whether it’s the d-zone, offensive zone, I work really hard. I take a lot of pride in that part of my game. My hockey IQ is my strongest aspect. I think that’s what separates me from the rest of the group in this draft class.”
Perfetti has taken the time to change certain aspects of his game. He’s not afraid to play in front of the net. He’ll play a physical game despite not being the biggest player out there. He’s even played a good chunk of time recently at center. He’s demonstrating a willingness to do anything to help his team while constantly improving his own game. Whoever lands Perfetti is getting an elite talent.
We thank Perfetti and the Saginaw Spirit for his time in talking with us.