David Perron was thrilled to be traded to Pittsburgh from Edmonton in January, and it showed in his play.
Perron scored in his Penguins debut and went on to record eight goals in his first 13 games – including five in his first six – while finding chemistry on a line with Sidney Crosby. After that, however, Perron faded off.
A hip injury sustained at the end of the 2013-14 season had kept Perron from training the previous summer, which meant he was behind all year in terms of conditioning – and it finally caught up to him. As a result, Perron finished the year scoreless in his final 17 appearances, including all five playoff games against the New York Rangers.
“I wasn’t proud of myself. I knew I had more and I think the coaches knew I had more too,” Perron said.
At the Pens’ final media availability of the season, Perron told reporters he felt he had another level in conditioning and that it was on him to have a productive summer and come back ready to go – and he was true to his word. When the players reported to training camp on Thursday for fitness testing, Perron was a standout in that area.
“I know Andy O’Brien is a new guy in the strength and conditioning area, but it made a big impression on him when he saw David Perron and looked at his test results from last year and saw where he was at now,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “It makes a great impression.”
And it’s not just in the weight room that Perron has been impressive throughout the first few days of training camp.
“For the coaching staff, we just come in after practice and we say gee, you look at David and we feel he’s got another gear,” Johnston said. “He’s got a lot of confidence out there. I really like the way he’s playing right now. That’s a big plus for us. He played well for us last year but I still thought he could get just a step quicker. And for a skilled player, a dangerous player with the puck, that’ll really help.”
The 27-year-old winger is an intriguing combination of skill and grit that’s netted at least 20 goals three times in his career, including 28 just two seasons ago. And he feels he’s capable of doing that and more this year.
“I feel like when I play the game simple – when I crash the net, when I work hard, when I’m intense in the corners, I finish my checks – and then if I do end up putting a couple points on the board, it gives you confidence to use some of the tools that you have skill-wise with your hands or whatever,” Perron said.
“You feel like you have more of a longer leash with the coaches too, to try stuff. And when you’re successful and the team’s successful, they let you do it. I’ve got to get to that now.”
It’s not that Perron did anything drastically different than what he would any other offseason; it’s just that this time, he was healthy and able to work out. Though he did add power skating in Montreal, and on the weekends, the Quebec native would join a couple of his buddies who were doing an Iron Man in Mont-Tremblant for their workouts.
“That was not something that was in my program, but I would tag along because I wanted to,” Perron said. “Some bike rides and stuff like that that were pretty tough, and I’m glad I did it because I feel good right now.”
Perron has so much going for him at this point. Not only is he in terrific shape; after joining the team in a mid-season trade last year he feels so much more comfortable heading into his first full season with the team. He is also a first-time father, with son Mason arriving on July 24, and Perron is absolutely loving being a parent.
“When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is I go over to him and I look at him for probably about a half hour and now it’s time to go after that,” Perron said. “I’m pretty fortunate. It’s been going really well. He’s healthy and everything and he’s starting to smile and do all the little things that make us feel really good inside our hearts, and it’s a good feeling.”
Perron is hoping all of that positivity will translate into his game this year.
“It’s great to feel good again and feel 100 percent,” Perron said. “When you know you’ve put in the work mentally you’re confident too, and that’s how I feel right now. I’m glad that they noticed and I’m glad I showed them in fitness testing and from there, you have to put it all together in games and earn the trust again of them and of your teammates on the ice.”