Player: Cole Perfetti
Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Today we’ll be taking a look at Cole Perfetti, a well-rounded and elusive Canadian forward who plays for the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League. A former 5th Overall pick in the OHL Draft, Perfetti has long been considered a top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft, and his production only lends credence to this assertion. To this point in the 2019-2020 season, Perfetti has amassed 13 goals and 42 points in just 27 games for the Spirit, which was preceded by an electric showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he led the tournament with 8 goals and 12 points in 5 games for Team Canada. Perfetti is a skilled and dangerous goal scorer, and we’ll be examining his play in depth using the following six attributes: Skating, Puck Skills, Passing Ability, Hockey Sense, Shooting Ability, and Physicality.
Grades are laid out on a scale that reads as follows:
20 – Terrible
25 – Very Poor
30 – Poor
35 – Bad
40 – Well-below Average
45 – Below Average
50 – Average
55 – Above Average
60 – High-end
65 – Elite
70 – World Class
75 – Special
80 – Generational
Perfetti’s skating ability can be summed up as roughly average. His speed is mostly unimpressive and it’s rare to see him turn on the jets and burn a forechecker or defenseman wide, which at times can limit his transition ability. The following clip is an example of how Perfetti’s lack of a high-end gear can deny some offensive opportunities through the transition game, as he corrals the puck in his own zone but is unable to pull away from an oncoming forechecker, forcing an offensive zone turnover (#91 in White):
His speed truly isn’t anything special, however, I would never refer to Perfetti as a bad skater, as he’s typically able to traverse the ice with more than enough ease to be effective. At his best, Perfetti can be quite elusive with his feet, as his agility is quite good and he can make quick cuts to beat defenders and open up more space. Later in the same game, you can see how Perfetti can use his agility to be elusive and transition the puck through the neutral zone, as he’s able to evade checkers with his footwork and puck skills before getting to full speed in the neutral zone (#91 in White):
The previous clip also gives us a glimpse into what often allows Perfetti to beat defenders with regularity.
Puck Skills: 65
Perfetti is a dynamic and slick puck handler, as his hands are typically what allows him to open up space on the ice and generate offensive opportunities for both himself and his linemates. His hands are quick and precise, and often times he’s able to react quickly to expose holes in the defense as they develop. This goal from the Hlinka Gretzky Cup is a perfect example of how dangerous Perfetti can be when he uses his hands to his advantage, as he collects the puck at the top of the offensive zone and is able to cut through the Swiss defense with ease as he walks into the slot and beats the netminder (#21 in Red):
Perfetti has an uncanny ability to make defenders miss using just his hands, which makes him among the most elusive players in the draft. One-on-one, he’s a nightmare for opposing defenders, and when he gets going he can be like a hot knife through butter in the offensive zone. The following goal against Sarnia is a thing of beauty, as he’s able to go one-on-two before turning the netminder inside out with a final move to his forehand, slipping the puck into a mostly-empty cage (#91 in White):
He’s able to read and react incredibly quickly with the puck on his stick, as he always has his head up while controlling the puck so he can identify lanes around defenders for both himself and the puck. This makes him not only a dangerous in-zone attacker but also a dangerous transition player, which allows him to make up for some of his skating deficiencies which were highlighted earlier. This move in the neutral zone is fantastic, as he’s able to beat a defender clean while in transition before coming in all alone on the goaltender (#91 in White):
Perfetti’s puck skills and creativity allow him to create space and opportunities with high frequency, while his passing ability allows him to share the wealth with his teammates as well.
Perfetti is a high-end passer than can deliver the puck to his teammates with incredible ease. His passing ability is crisp and accurate, as he rarely misses his mark and is able to deliver the puck through tight spaces. He has the ability to deliver hard passes without sacrificing accuracy, which allows him to do some of his best work on the powerplay. The following clip is one of about a half dozen that I have on hand, where Perfetti is able to survey the offensive zone from the half wall on the powerplay before delivering a perfect, hard pass across to his teammate for an easy one-time goal (#91 in Blue):
Perfetti has a great amount of finesse to his offensive game and his passing ability is no exception. In addition to making hard, accurate passes, Perfetti also has the wherewithal and awareness to make soft touch passes or deliver precise saucer passes in the offensive zone. Here, we see an excellent example of how Perfetti is able to make soft passes after making astute reads, as he’s able to complete a short area pass into open space for his defenseman to step into, who makes no mistake (#91 in Black):
Beyond completing in-zone passes, Perfetti is also more than capable of completing difficult passes to start the transition game. The aspects we’ve already outlined – power, precision, and finesse – all come into play while completing breakout passes, and this gorgeous outlet pass is an excellent example of that, as Perfetti is able to send a perfect tape-to-tape backhand saucer pass through the neutral zone to a teammate in stride (#91 in White):
These passing attributes are made even more dangerous in the hands of an intelligent attacker, which Perfetti absolutely is.
Hockey Sense: 65
Perfetti’s awareness while on the ice is fantastic, which is often demonstrated in all three zones as he’s a very intelligent 200-foot player. Perfetti rarely is seen with his head down while he’s on the ice, which is one of the things I love the most about him. He’s constantly reading and reacting, taking in information and processing the game at an elite level, which further enhances his ability to create plays in the offensive zone and transition the puck. The awareness he shows while carrying the puck into the zone is truly something, as he always has his head up while carrying the puck in order to identify routes and lanes into the offensive zone. The following clip is a great example of how good he is at creating zone entries, as he’s able to identify a clear lane into the zone while keeping his head up with the puck on his stick. Once in the offensive zone, he has the awareness to not force the play, and smartly plays the puck in deep to secure possession for his team (#91 in White):
This awareness and ability to read the play extends to his ability as a forechecker as well. Perfetti is a very competitive kid, and while on the forecheck is able to identify and clog up outlet lanes that opposing puck carriers are attempting to utilize while carrying the puck out of their own zone. Perfetti has an active stick and is able to make the most of it by reading plays before they happen, much as he does in the following clip as he’s able to turn a turnover into an easy goal (#91 in Blue):
Perfetti’s hockey sense heightens his ability as a goal scorer as well, as he’s able to read and react to netminders in a hurry, which can be seen in this next clip as well. After receiving the feed from a teammate, Perfetti is able read the netminder dropping into his butterfly too early, and is able to adjust accordingly to slide the puck into an empty net (#91 in White):
Perfetti’s shooting ability is arguably the most exciting thing about his skill set, as his shot is among the best in this draft class. Perfetti is a sniper in every sense of the word, as his ability to pick corners on netminders from distance is truly uncanny. Perfetti’s shot is the perfect cocktail of power, accuracy, and quickness, as he’s able to get his shot off in a hurry with fantastic results. I could show a dozen clips of him going bar down on OHL goaltenders and it would honestly never get old; he’s a terror when he’s given time to load up for a wrister and he very rarely misses his mark. You can see for yourself here, as he’s able to pick a perfect corner over the shoulder of the Kitchener netminder (#91 in White):
Perfetti does not need to be in tight to beat netminders, which makes him such a scary player to play against. He can beat goaltenders from distance with just a wrister, which isn’t something a lot of players are able to do with the amount of power and accuracy Perfetti has.
Beyond power and accuracy, Perfetti’s shot release might just be my favorite thing about his shot. His release is very Matthews-like, as it’s lightning-quick and difficult for goaltenders to react to. With a quick flick of a wrist, Perfetti can send a bullet of a wrister on net which, more often than not, fools netminders as the puck is by them before they’re able to properly react, which is what you’re able to see on the following play. His shot is a terrifying component that junior goaltenders just don’t have an answer for and should translate nicely to the NHL (#91 in Blue):
Perfetti is a player that’s a bit slight-of-frame, as he stands at approximately 5’10” and 185 lbs. As can be expected with smaller players, Perfetti at times can be outmuscled by larger opponents, which can be seen in the following clip against Ottawa in the OHL (#91 in White):
However, there are times where Perfetti is able to overcome his size disadvantage with how hard he works. He’s shown instances where he’s able to dig in his skates to maintain a strong center of gravity while working against larger opponents, and at times has shown some nice puck protection skills. Here you’re able to see Perfetti at his best while protecting the puck, as he’s able to spin off an attacker to maintain possession of the puck (#91 in White):
Perfetti should never be mistaken for a power forward capable of overpowering his opposition, but he does enough to be considered average in this category.
All-in-all, Perfetti is an exciting and tantalizing blend of skill, smarts, and work ethic, all the while being a dual-threat as both a playmaker and goal scorer. Perfetti grabbed the attention of many at the start of the season at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and since then has not looked back, demonstrating on a nightly basis why he should be a top pick in this June’s NHL Draft. The young Canadian still has a long way to go, but at this time, it would be difficult to see Perfetti not being selected in the Top 10 come June 26th, 2020.
Cole Perfetti currently sits at #6 on DraftGeek.ca’s most recent Draft Rankings, which can be found here.