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Perfetti eager to realize his NHL dream in season opener against Anaheim

"I focused on tomorrow night as a goal of mine."

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - Since the start of training camp, Cole Perfetti has done everything Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice has asked of him.

On Tuesday, he continued that trend, but this time a phone call to Perfetti's parents was required.

"He said when I get off the ice, go call my parents because I'm playing tomorrow night," said Perfetti. "That was pretty special to hear that. I'm super excited and I can't wait to get there tomorrow and make that dream come true."

That phone call is something Maurice doesn't get to hear, but a part of him wishes he could see what it's like in the Perfetti household after that call.

"When I'm telling the guy, what I think of is his mom and dad," said Maurice. "There is a phone call that's happened in the last hour and I'm in on what that house is like for today into tomorrow. Trying to get there, just every crappy cup of coffee in every small rink that we've all had a thousand of - all of it - the kid is playing his first NHL game and it has to be awesome in that house."

Video: PRACTICE | Hellebuyck, Perfetti

The 10th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft felt confident after playing 32 games in the American Hockey League in 2020-21 (along with another seven in the IIHF World Hockey Championship) that he could compete against men in the National Hockey League.

Getting his first game in the NHL on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks will be memorable for sure, but Perfetti knows it's just a step toward where he wants to be.

"To make it out of day one is pretty cool. Like I said, a dream come true and something I worked for all summer," Perfetti said. "I focused on tomorrow night as a goal of mine. To achieve that, it's pretty special and makes me feel pretty good. I'm looking forward to it and I'm looking forward to my first NHL road trip."

In the final exhibition game, a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames, Maurice kept an eye on Perfetti - who had 14:07 of ice time with Adam Lowry and Paul Stastny as line mates.

"He was maybe the one or two things that came out of that Calgary game that I liked," Maurice said. "I thought there were some defensive things, but I'm not worried about that - that's my job to teach him. But there were some offensive things that nobody teaches anybody, and I didn't mind it."

During the last couple days of practice, Perfetti skated on the right wing with Adam Lowry in the middle and Jansen Harkins on the left wing.

Having Lowry, a veteran of 460 NHL games, on his line is something Perfetti is grateful for.

"He can create a lot of space. He can get to the net and create a lot of offence," Perfetti said. "On the flip side, he's a great shutdown guy in the D-zone and so reliable. It kind of makes it a lot easier to play with him knowing you have a guy like that in the D-zone and someone that is going to make space for you and make plays."

The full line rushes at Tuesday's practice looked like this:









 As Perfetti spoke about the conversations with his dad, and the text he sent to his mom (who he couldn't immediately reach by phone), teammate Connor Hellebuyck could only smile.

Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice

"I remember when I was getting my first call and making my first call to my parents," Hellebuyck grinned. "Hearing him talk about it is bringing back all those memories. Enjoy the butterflies and enjoy the entire process of it."

Hellebuyck's first NHL game came on November 27, 2015 against the Minnesota Wild. He finished with 15 saves in a 3-1 Jets win that night.

Now, all these years and 315 NHL games later, Hellebuyck is excited about what this year's version of the Jets is capable of.

"Tomorrow is the start of the season and I really want to start off on the right foot and get this team moving in the right way," Hellebuyck said. "It's just game one, a lot of stuff can happen, but we're going to build and we're going to get better."

That's Perfetti's plan as well.

"There is lots to improve on and there is a lot to learn every single day," said Perfetti. "This is a great group to do it from. You can learn from anyone in the line-up. I just tried to make plays, play my game, and not try to do anything out of the ordinary. Stick to what got me here and I've been pretty happy with it."

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