“That was a first for me, I actually didn’t know a single other guy,” laughed the 26 year-old, sitting in an empty dressing room at the MTS Iceplex during training camp. “Which, I mean, you walk into the room and you don’t even have one guy you can walk up to and say ‘hey, what’s up’. But I’ve been around for two weeks now and it feels like I’ve been here forever. It’s a really great bunch of guys here.”
His new teammates may not be familiar, but Perreault is no stranger to Winnipeg. “It’s probably the city I’ve played the most in my career,” admitted the centre. “When I was in Washington, the first year, the Jets were in the same division so we came up here four times. And in the American Hockey League, we played a full series here. So I’ve been in the city so much. Like being in the rink, I can go to the MTS Centre and know exactly where I’m going. It’s kind of nice,” he smiled.
Perreault has known his way around rinks his entire life. “My parents said when I was 10 years-old, people would ask at school what do you want to do when you grow up and I’d say a hockey player. I never had a plan B; hockey was always what I wanted to do. I’m lucky it actually worked out for me,” said Perreault.
But being committed to becoming a professional hockey player didn’t mean spending every waking minute in a rink. Perreault was an all-around athlete growing up, and he encourages aspiring hockey stars to do the same.
“I played every sport growing up – soccer, tennis, golf, in the summer I would always get away from the game. If you play twelve months a year it’s too much,” he stressed. “That’s actually one piece of advice I always tell people – don’t have your kid play twelve months a year. Let them play other sports so they develop other skills. That’s what I did growing up and I think that helped me get where I am now.”
Hockey has led Perreault south of the border for the better part of his career. After spending the last seven years playing in the U.S., the Drummondville, Quebec native is glad to be on home soil, particularly in a city where he has such fond memories. “My first two years in Hershey (playing with the Bears in the AHL) we won the Calder Cup. We actually won it here in Manitoba my first year,” smiled Perreault.
“It was a great experience. I was a 20 year-old, one of the youngest guys on the team coming up, a fourth liner. A chance to win a cup on any team is a great experience,” he recalled of his first AHL experience. “And the next year I played a bit of a bigger role and we won again. At that stage most of the NHL teams are done playing, so the scouts are watching the games and are looking at you. So playoffs in the American League are very comparable to what you might see in the regular season in the NHL, it’s a launch pad into the NHL.”
Two cups in two years is impressive no matter the league. For Perreault, the second season with the Bears was the one that got him noticed. “That was the year that kind of put me through. The next year I got called up in Washington and made the team out of training camp from there,” he explained. “So my years in the AHL were the best they could be – we won two Calder Cups and I had a great time.”
The transition from the AHL to the NHL was a fairly easy one for the centre, because his role throughout his career has never changed. “I would get called up for a few games in the NHL and my point production would stay the same. When I was in Hershey, I wasn’t a first line centre there. I played a secondary role and on the power play so when I got called up to the NHL in Washington, I’d play the same role,” said Perreault.
“It was comfortable for me because I played the same role but with better players. It’s the same role I’ve played my entire career. The role I’ll be playing this year with the Jets, it’s the same role that I played in Hershey, that I played in Washington, and Anaheim. I’m definitely fine with that,” asserted the forward.
“I’m also the kind of guy that, like in Washington, Backstrom got hurt and I got bumped up with Ovechkin on the first line, played well, then Backstrom would come back and I’d go back to the third line. So it’s a role that I feel comfortable in and if there are injuries, I can step up and play first line centre. I guess you could say I’m very versatile,” he shrugged with a smile.
In 69 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season, Perreault picked up 18 goals and 25 assists, for a total of 43 points. A drastic improvement over his previous 17 points in 39 games the previous season with the Capitals. This year, the centreman hopes to bring all he’s learned with his past teams to help the Jets, especially by sparking the power play.
“I’ve been looking forward to it. I talked to Paul and we struggled a little bit last year on the power play so hopefully I can come in and help,” said the centreman. “I’ve always been a part of the power play, even going back to juniors, AHL, NHL. I feel comfortable in that position. I can bring some ideas from teams that I’ve played for – Washington has one of the best power plays and I know exactly how they run it. They (Jets coaching staff) want me to work with them so I’ll bring what I’ve learned and hopefully it can help,” said Perreault. “I’ve always been an offensive guy and I think that’s what they’ll expect from me here. Make it three lines that can score every night.”