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Getting to Know: Cole Perfetti

Skilled forward has already started his own foundation

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

The Detroit Red Wings now know they'll be selecting fourth in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, which takes place Oct. 6-7 virtually.

That eliminates consensus top pick Alexis Lafrenière and most likely takes forwards Quinton Byfield and Tim Stützle out of contention as well.

Let's just figure if either Byfield or Stützle were available at No. 4, the Wings would quickly grab him.

However, there are still plenty of potential high-impact players that will be around when the Wings pick.

Members of the Detroit Red Wings front office did not have to travel far to watch Cole Perfetti this past season.

The forward from Whitby, Ontario played for the Saginaw Spirit, recording a franchise-record 111 points (37-74-111) in 61 games.

Only Ottawa 67's Marco Rossi had more in the Ontario Hockey League with 120 points (39-81-120) in 56 games.

Tweet from @DraftLook: Outstanding shift by Cole Perfetti here. Passes the puck off the wall to himself twice, I love the creativity. pic.twitter.com/wGOgEOmZKH

That was 21 points more than his next closest teammate, Cole Coskey, had for the Spirit.

The Hockey Writers' Mark Scheig spoke to Perfetti a few days ago and asked about the possibility and the proximity of the Red Wings.

"I've had some good talks with them (the Red Wings), a couple of times," Perfetti told The Hockey Writers. "I have another talk with them coming up this week. It's crazy to hear people talking about that. I don't think they even know who they're taking yet with there still being 3 1/2 weeks to go. There's a lot of great hockey players in this draft. I'm just trying to stay away from that and keep my head focused. When I have an interview with any team, I want to make the most of it and show who I really am.

"It would be really cool to play in Detroit being only an hour down the road from them and then be really close to my billets who I've grown very close to. I consider them my second family. I talk to them almost every day since I've been home. They've been amazing to me and I can't thank them enough. To be only an hour away from them would be awesome. At the end of the day any team would be amazing and I'd be honored and thrilled to hear my name called to play for any organization."

In its final rankings released April 8, NHL Central Scouting had Perfetti fifth among North American skaters behind Lafreniere, Byfield and defensemen Jamie Drysdale and Jake Sanderson.

In early June Perfetti was a guest on the NHL Draft Class podcast and was asked what he would tell a general manager who asked why he should pick Perfetti.

"The thing I've said is the combination of consistency and hockey IQ," Perfetti told NHL Draft Class. "I think that's what makes me who I am. My hockey IQ is the strongest thing in my game and it allows me to do what I do and makes me the player I am.

"I think my consistency is very strong. If you look back on the season, the amount of games I didn't have points were limited. I still felt like I was able to come in every night and make an impact, get my one or two points and then make an impact through the rest of the game, whether that's in the defensive zone, the neutral zone, the offensive zone, power play, penalty killing, the coach knew what he was going to get from me day in and day out. You can expect the one or two points and the solid 200-foot game the rest of the game.

"That's what made me who I was this year and allowed me to be so successful, the combination of the hockey IQ and consistency, day in and day out."

Perfetti isn't just smart on the ice. He was named the CHL's Scholastic Player of the Year with a 93 percent academic average, becoming the first Spirit player to win the award.

Tweet from @OHLHockey: Cole Perfetti (@ColePerfetti91) of @SpiritHockey discusses the honour of receiving the Bobby Smith Trophy as #OHL Scholastic Player of the Year presented by @cibc and what it means to be among names such as McDavid and Stamkos: https://t.co/ux8DMfEkLL pic.twitter.com/k0QZRr8rbB

Perfetti, who turned 18 on January 1, is listed at 5-foot-10, 177 pounds.

In its 2020 Draft Guide, Red Line Report said of Perfetti, "Plays a highly skilled game and is able to consistently create chances. When his team doesn't have the puck he hounds it relentlessly and uses great anticipation to get it back. Powerful quads and low center of gravity allow him to leverage larger players off-balance. Has a quick change-of-pace that he uses to leave defenders flat-footed often. Always wants the puck and has tremendous vision and hockey IQ. The one knock is that he's not blazing fast for just an average-sized guy, but he's able to beat defenders 1-on-1 consistently with east-west movement and great stickhandling. Able to hold off defenders while making crisp set-up passes in traffic. Also has a sniper's mentality and touch in tight and buries his chances. Used getting cut from Canada's World Jr. Team as motivation, and found a new level, playing with faster pace and asserting himself in every aspect of the game."

In his final Craig's List of the season, Craig Button, TSN's director of scouting, had Perfetti fourth on his list, which includes both North American and international skaters.

Tweet from @TSNHockey: ���Call it hockey sense, call it feel, he has the best IQ of any player in the 2020 #NHLDraft...���With the Draft Lottery in sight, @CraigJButton profiles some of the top talent available.Today, Cole Perfetti: https://t.co/CmDrCJyY3Q#TSNHockey #DraftCentre pic.twitter.com/L9I4qG8RW1

"Call it hockey sense, call it feel, he has the best IQ of any player in the 2020 NHL Draft," Button said on TSN. "He sees the possibilities in every play, both seen and unseen, combined with his great imagination, he produces offense at a high rate. When we look at the scouting report, that's not a mistake, that's 6 out of 5 on hockey sense as a demonstration of how elite his hockey sense is. When you look at the scoring touch, excellent. Creative ability to make something out of seemingly nothing. He's an elite scoring left winger in the mold of New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin."

Bob McKenzie, Button's TSN colleague, placed Perfetti fifth in his final draft ranking, released June 22.

"Perfetti is a shade under 5-foot-11 and 177 pounds and doesn't have blinding straight-line, beat-you-to-the-outside speed, but it's a testament to his elite hockey sense, creativity and goal-scoring ability that he still cracked TSN's Top 5," McKenzie said. "Some scouts ranked Perfetti as high as No. 4 but as low as No. 12 and that type of scatter-shot assessment becomes much more common for the balance of the players in TSN's Top 10. Perfetti moved up three slots from No. 8 on TSN's mid-season list."

Tweet from @BBMHockey: Cole Perfetti constantly makes walking around guys look so easy. Some concerns about his skating and size are valid but the guy has incredible instincts and an awareness of the game. Very rarely do you see a player with 5/5 goal scoring and playmaking instincts as well. pic.twitter.com/3b8pet7ZdX

The Athletic's Scott Wheeler, in his top 100 draft prospects, ranked Perfetti fourth after Lafreniere, Byfield and Rossi.

"There's this thing that seems to happen with players who are labelled 'smart' where, like those who are labeled as two-way players, their skill level doesn't get the love it deserves," Wheeler said. "But it doesn't have to be one or the other. Perfetti sees the game differently than everyone else in this class. He sees seams others don't. He recognizes the way opposing defenders are reading the zone before the defenders even recognize what they're seeing in that zone. And the more you watch him, the more so-called concerns of strength or speed begin to fade. He has the indescribable knack for finding pockets of space to get open into (or for giving the puck to a linemate just as he enters into one of them). He's one or two steps ahead of everyone else.

"Those things shouldn't discount the rest of his tools, though. Because he grades near the top of this draft class as a stickhandler, individual creator and shooter as well. He's also one of the best draft-eligible prospects off the rush that I've seen in recent memory. He doesn't just make everyone else better. He can break open a game too."

The Athletic's Corey Pronman placed Perfetti fifth on his final 2020 NHL Draft Board: Top 122 prospects.

"Perfetti burst onto the scene as a U17, scoring the most goals by a player that age since John Tavares, Taylor Hall and Steven Stamkos," Pronman said. "Perfetti followed it up with a brilliant U18 season, one of the best in the modern OHL era. He also dominated the Hlinka Gretzky like few others have. Perfetti is incredibly skilled and is one of the best passers in the draft. He is so creative with the puck, finding unique ways to fool defenders, manipulate the puck in tight spaces and make plays through defenders. He can make things happen off the half-wall at an elite level, makes very creative passes frequently, and projects to be a top passer in the NHL due to his vision and his pace.

"Perfetti isn't the biggest or the quickest forward so some scouts aren't over the moon about him as an undersized forward without NHL speed. I think he skates fine but does lack ability to separate from checks. His compete level is fine, he gets his nose dirty enough and works hard off the puck to get it back. He killed penalties this season and played center for stretches of the season, showing he can be a versatile player, as well."

Watch: Youtube Video

Dobber Hockey said, "On the heels of a historical goal-scoring performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, Perfetti began his draft-eligible OHL season as a marked man. Teams were ready. However, they were not prepared for his ascension to become one of the premier playmakers in the league. Perfetti mixes terrific instincts with a thinking-man's style. He's not the biggest or fastest player, but he finds seams and can distribute through defensive folds. He has top-line upside, but perhaps will be better suited to be an excellent 2C. The reigning OHL Scholastic Player of the Year is one of the smartest players in the group both on and off of the ice."

As impressive as Perfetti already sounds, there's even more to like as the young man has already established his own foundation, Fetts' Friends.

"Myself, my parents and the Spirit Foundation, the Saginaw Spirit, we teamed up and we made Fetts' Friends and it's a charity with Covenant Kids Hospital, so the pediatric center at the local hospital, Covenant Kids in Saginaw," Perfetti said. "We did a lot of things this year for raising money, selling game jerseys, stuff like that. One thing we raised money for was to purchase this new gaming table for all the kids in the waiting room so it's essentially a massive iPad, like a three-foot iPad, for all the kids. When they're waiting, they can utilize it and when they're not waiting, they can just use it, touch screen, all these games, apps, stuff like that on the massive iPad that they can use, just to kind of get their minds off the hospital and pretend like they're not there a little bit, just allow them to have some fun. We've brought a lot of kids out to games and allowed them to enjoy and experience what it's like to go to a Saginaw Spirit game.

Tweet from @SpiritHockey: ���Fetts��� Friends��� partners with Covenant HealthCare, Bringer Inn to donate meals to hospital workersFULL 📰 https://t.co/XD0TeH2GlF pic.twitter.com/YXdkcns5OJ

"Recently we raised money and bought food for the front-line workers at children's hospital, all the health care workers. They were going through a lot and were very stressed out, had a lot to deal with, so we just thought it would be a good idea to buy them breakfast and buy them lunch one day. It worked out well. It's important to me to be able to give back to the community, they support us so much, without the fans, the community, the Spirit wouldn't be a team, wouldn't be a franchise, so without them, we wouldn't be able to function so I think it's the least we can do to give back to the ones in need, the ones that need the help the most."

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