WINNIPEG - When Cole Perfetti steps on the ice in Winnipeg in six days, he'll be a rookie among a Jets roster full of veterans. Until then, he's in quarantine for the third time since Nov. 23, so perhaps that makes him somewhat of a veteran.
"The days aren't too bad. I'm able to cook my own food in here. I've got a nice little kitchenette, so that kills a couple hours in a day. That's been keeping me sane," said Perfetti on Tuesday.
"A lot of it is FaceTime, whether it's friends or family, just keeping in touch with everyone. I have my PlayStation so I've been able to play video games with the guys back home."
Perfetti, Winnipeg's first round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, arrived in Winnipeg on Sunday after the team granted him some time to see his family after the 2021 World Junior Championship.
Video: VIDEO CALL | Cole Perfetti
The visit was certainly well earned. On Nov. 16, the then 18-year-old Perfetti began Hockey Canada's Selection Camp in Red Deer, AB. Following two positive cases, he and the rest of his Canadian teammates went into a two-week quarantine that had them isolating in hotel rooms.
Following that, he quarantined again prior to entering the World Junior bubble in Edmonton, then played seven games - scoring twice and adding four assists - as Canada took home the silver medal.
"To be part of Team Canada at the World Juniors is a dream come true and an honour. Words can't really describe how it is to play for your country," said Perfetti. "We put 55 days total together as a team in a hotel between Red Deer and Edmonton. Twenty of those days were quarantine days and we spent a lot of time in the summer on Zoom."
Despite all the quarantine, he describes his first World Junior experience as a positive one. He turned 19 on Jan. 1, then three days later he scored in a 5-0 semifinal win over Russia.
The gold medal loss to the United States the next night, however, is still tough to get over.
"To go through all that and come up so close, come up short, it hurt," he said. "I still believe we were the best team in that tournament. We played 20 minutes of bad hockey throughout the whole tournament and that cost us.
"It's disappointing winning silver but it was an honour to play hockey for Canada on a world stage."
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Now those memories go in the rear-view mirror as Perfetti prepares for his first skate with NHL players. One of those players, of course, will be Jets captain Blake Wheeler. He was one of many to reach out to Perfetti shortly after his name was called in October's NHL Draft.
"He's a bright piece of our future," said Wheeler. "The important thing with any young player coming into this is to try and get on that page of how we're trying to work every single day.
"I'll definitely help as much as I can with any young player with anything they could possibly need help with. Whether it's outside the rink or here at the facility, my phone is always on, my door is always open."
To prepare himself for the highest level of hockey he's ever played, Perfetti has spent the last couple days doing bodyweight workouts in his hotel room.
He watched the scrimmage live stream on Monday and also received a kettle bell and resistance bands from Jets strength and conditioning coach, Jake Wolff.
"He's going to send me some workouts to do with the resources that I have," said Perfetti, who knows there are a number of places he could end up playing this season.
He's not shy about his goal though. He wants to play in the NHL, though he acknowledges it's a lofty goal.
"Making the NHL as an 18-year-old is extremely hard," said Perfetti. "If it's only a couple games this year, if it's no games, I'll be happy with whatever they think is right for me. I'm going to do what I can to impress them and make them have to bring me up."