GLENDALE - Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett spoke highly of several of the team's rookies at his recent season-ending press conference.
His powerful comments about forward Brendan Perlini, however, stood out.
"Perlini is something that this organization has been missing for a long time," Tippett said. "He's a bona fide goal scorer. He has the ability to score and plays the game fast. He's a pretty driven player, too. He's kind of a happy-go-lucky guy, but he really is a driven player. He's going to be a good player for a long time."
Perlini notched 14 goals in 57 NHL games in his first pro season, which he began playing for Tucson in the American Hockey League. He scored 14 goals there, too, in just 17 games, giving him 28 in his first 74 pro games.
"It was a real learning year," said Perlini, whom Arizona drafted 12th overall in 2014. "Of course it would be great to go far in the playoffs and still be playing, but in the same sense I thought I had a real good rookie year."
Perlini did not earn a roster spot out of training camp, as did other rookies. He regarded his demotion to the AHL as a challenge to prove himself as a pro hockey player, which he quickly did. On Dec. 4, the Coyotes recalled him from the AHL, where he was co-leading the league with 11 goals at the time, and had been named its Rookie of the Month for November thanks, in part, to a six-game goal-scoring streak.
Once in the NHL for good, Perlini learned how to prepare for games and how to cope with the grueling League schedule.
"Coming back next year will be so much easier knowing what to expect," Perlini said. "I was definitely not used to playing that many games in that many nights. In the American League, you kind of practice all week and play on the weekends, but here it's game, day off, game, day off, game, game. It's crazy. You have to be prepared every night … You just have to prepare as much as possible. You have to always take care of your body very well. I think everything is important off the ice, with the right food and in the gym and stuff like that."
Perlini's best weapon is his quick, powerful and accurate wrist shot, and he ranked fifth among NHL rookies who played 30 games or more in shooting percentage at 15.2 percent. That's why the Coyotes would love to see him shoot more next season and beyond. He took just 92 shots in 57 games as a rookie - 1.6 per game.
Perlini made his NHL debut on Dec. 5 at Columbus. He didn't notch a point but it was a night he'll always remember.
"I was really relaxed that night," Perlini said. "It was almost like 'thank God, I am here playing.' I wasn't nervous at all. It was a lot of fun. The main thing for me is I had a lot of fun and it was really cool having my whole family be there for me. Obviously you only play your first game once."
Perlini scored his first NHL goal five days later, assisted by Shane Doan, to become the first British-born player to score an NHL goal since Kevin Brown in 1994-95. He scored his final goal as a rookie in the season finale, again assisted by Doan. They were linemates for a large chunk of the season.
"Obviously 'Doaner' has played for a long time, so playing with him was really cool," Perlini said. "I tried to soak up any piece of knowledge he threw my way, and that goes to all of the older guys. I just tried to learn as much as I could every single day."
Perlini is expecting his second NHL season to be more challenging than his first. He'll be ready though, because he wants to stay in the League.
"Every day in the NHL is a treat," Perlini said. "I want to remain very humble and grateful for the experience and hopefully be here for a very long time."
Video: Brendan Perlini on the 2016-17 season, team's future