As the Jets entered their 10th draft since the franchise moved from Atlanta, you’d have to believe that somewhere Dale Hawerchuk was grinning as Winnipeg made qualified center Cole Perfetti their final first-round player.
Most of the simulated drafts got the Saginaw Spirit in the top five, and many put it in fourth overall for the Detroit Red Wings. But as the names faded from the board, it became clear that the Jets would be able to place a player in one of their most critical positions.
Whether Perfetti is able to break through the lineup at age 18 or not, this choice helps solidify the organization in the middle and provides a running mate for Mark Scheifele.
When the Minnesota Wild picked Marco Rossi from the Ottawa 67s, you felt like Kevin Cheveldayoff would have run straight to the podium if the event was held inside the Bell Center in Montreal.
Instead, Cheveldayoff smiled ear to ear as he gave Hawerchuk’s wife the floor to make the selection, in what can only be described as a classy gesture.
“Just a really special moment. The raw emotion that everyone is feeling and the love we feel for Dale and his family, ”Cheveldayoff said when meeting with reporters after the first round. “He was instrumental in the conversations and the development of a player like Mark Scheifele. The way the stars aligned, in our 10th year, when we got the chance to have the 10th pick, we got the idea that who was better placed than the biggest number 10 in the history of the Winnipeg Jets.
“Obviously this story has been moving,” Perfetti said during a Zoom call with reporters. “Dale was an amazing hockey player and a great person off the ice. He left a legacy and a lasting impression on everyone in Canada, but especially in Winnipeg. Being called by Crystal was a pretty cool time. Being the 10th pick when he wore the No.10 was pretty cool.
The connection between Hawerchuk and Scheifele has been well documented, but when it comes to comparisons, there are similarities in the way Perfetti approaches and enjoys the game he loves.
“First and foremost, they have an amazing person. A very humble person, ”Spirit CEO Dave Drinkill said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. “He is very motivated and very motivated. Just a complete leader and a great off-ice teammate. They will certainly be delighted to have him within the organization. I know Mark Scheifele very well and was working for the Barrie Colts when the (Jets) recruited him to their organization. Cole is the same type of person as Mark and I know what he means to the Jets organization.
“He’s a player who eats it and breathes it. He loves hockey, he loves everything and he wants to be the best. He is motivated. He wants to be awesome and he knows everything he has to do to make it happen because he’s such a student of the game and he sees how other players got there. He’s going to get the job done and do everything in the right way and in a professional manner.
“On the ice Cole is a high IQ player. Very talented. He sets up a pile of points and he thinks the game on another level. As he progresses to the next level, with players able to think a bit on the same wavelength as him, it will get even easier for him and the game will slow down. I am very excited to see what he will do to the next level. The Jets definitely got a steal at No. 10. ”
Although he never lacks motivation, Perfetti couldn’t help but notice his overtaking. It’s part of the deal when a player is chosen later than expected.
“Yes, it was definitely a scary time,” Perfetti said. “You work so hard all your life right now, you just want to be chosen and you want to go to an organization that will give you an opportunity, that takes care of you, that wants you there. So I think the Jets are a great choice and a great place for me, and I can’t wait to get there and start. But it was certainly the longest hour and a half of my life, but the best hour and a half of my life. I will never forget him. “
His offensive skills and high hockey IQ made him a must-see prospect in the 2020 #NHLDraft.
Meet the Future: Cole Perfettihttps: //t.co/Ht2QbUF4YF
– Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 6, 2020
While he is delighted to know where he ended up with the Jets, Perfetti has also taken it personally.
“Obviously I’m excited to be a Winnipeg Jet, but nine other teams have passed me,” said Perfetti. “I’ll come and try to prove myself. At the end of the day, I want to be the best player in this draft and leave a legacy. I think it’s going to be coming in with a chip on my shoulder, playing hungry and hard, and establishing that I can make an impact to the next level. It will be important for me to do this right away. I really want to prove to everyone that I am wrong. I am delighted to be a Jet and I think I will have a great career there.
“First and foremost, (the Jets) are going to have a kid who is eager enough and hungry enough to take the leap. I’ll go in with a bullet on my shoulder and try to make an impact as soon as possible. They’re going to have a 200-footer and definitely a guy who uses his brain and his hockey IQ in the offensive zone, who has this ability to score with my shot and in tight, kind of a double threat. It’s my hockey IQ and my ability to play that makes me who I am.
In addition to his hockey IQ, Perfetti was the 2019-20 Canadian Hockey League School Player of the Year – an honor that current Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey claimed in 2012-13 before d ” be chosen 13th overall by Winnipeg. Other members of the Jets organization to win Western Hockey League School Player of the Year honors include Adam Lowry (2009-10), Nelson Nogier (2013-14) and Cheveldayoff himself. (1987-88).
“I definitely see a correlation with how my academics are and how that directly correlates to how fast I work on the ice and how fast I can think on the ice,” Perfetti said. “Academics are an important thing to me and my family and I have always taken it very seriously. I really think expanding your knowledge and improving your brain in the classroom will definitely make an impact and translate directly to the ice.
If you’re wondering how Perfetti is reacting to a certain level of disappointment, look no further last season. After being eliminated by Team Canada at World Junior Camp, Perfetti has been a dominant force, accumulating 66 points in the last 32 games.
It’s too early to tell if Perfetti can carve out a place in the NHL roster this season or if he will need another year of seasoning in the OHL. He won’t be in a hurry, but Perfetti will have every opportunity to show what he can do.
When he looks to the future and thinks about the prospect of playing alongside someone like Scheifele and having the opportunity to be mentored by someone like Scheifele, Perfetti gets goosebumps.
“What (Scheifele) is doing on the ice is awesome. He’s a great player and he looks like a great guy off the ice. I have already received a text from him welcoming me to the organization, ”Perfetti said. “It’s great to see guys like that make me really feel welcome. Being able to get into an organization and being able to play with guys of your caliber is special. He’s a great player and the way he thinks about the game, the way he plays, he’s a real pro. I’ve been a huge fan of him for many years now and I admire his game. He’s a great player. I hope it’s going to be surreal dressing up with him.
“Their list is quite impressive. There are a lot of great guys you can play with throughout the roster. It would be a lot of fun. Whether you’re playing with Scheifele or Copp or Wheeler or Laine for that matter, there are so many great players. Being able to even think about playing with these guys gives me goosebumps. It will be a lot of fun. I think we will work well together.
Much like in 2015, when left winger Kyle Connor fell to the Jets at 17, Cheveldayoff liked the way things were going in the picks leading up to No.10.
Then he received an interesting handover offer that he felt was important enough to mention, although he didn’t reveal the team that was coming to call or dig into what was on offer.
“They were an exciting choice couple before, where you see the players fall into place. There is a lot of talent in the top 10 and when we knew we were going to be selected in the top 10 we felt pretty good. As the draft progressed we felt even better, ”said Cheveldayoff. “I never really disclosed our list, but it was funny because as things started to unfold I started getting a few more phone calls. And I asked a team to make a really interesting offer. Someday in my book – you’ll have to read it – but for us our lists are sacred and we tend to keep them pretty tight.
Whether this phone call involved a proposal involving Jets sniper Patrik Laine remains to be seen, but it’s a situation that will continue to be watched over the next few days.
Spirit head coach Chris Lazary has compared Perfetti to Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov in the past, an idea the skilled forward himself did not shy away from during his conversation with reporters on Tuesday. .
Cheveldayoff had no interest in going down this road. Feeding the narrative would only add unnecessary pressure to the new member of the organization.
“There are never two players the same,” said Cheveldayoff. “The comparative side of things is definitely something that makes people honored, but he’s a player who grew up around the game, his family has housed hockey players, he’s a student of the game, he’s working on his game off the ice. exceptionally tough and he’s an exceptionally smart player. He is going to be his own person and his own player and we are delighted to see him grow in our organization.
“Everyone was delighted with his intelligence. People loved his character and obviously his stats and ice play speak for themselves. As an organization, when you have the chance to recruit top players who are talented like him, that’s something you are passionate about. There is no doubt that he will be working on his game. He is a determined person, a determined player and I have no doubt that he will push to make some tough decisions for us as soon as possible.
Barring a trade-off, the Jets have only three choices left on day 2 of the draft, coming in the second round (# 40), fifth round (# 133) and sixth round (# 164).
It’s certainly possible that the Jets will be looking to trade and / or move a player or two off the roster for additional selection on Wednesday.
“Two things have to happen. First, we have to feel that there is a group of players that we could choose from and two, someone has to have the desire to want to use multiple choices to progress, ”said Cheveldayoff. “Again, this is a situation we are not opposed to. We’ve talked about this possibility, but we’ll see.