Devin Little The Hockey Writers
Detroit Red Wings Draft Candidates: Cole Perfetti
As disappointing as it is that the Detroit Red Wings missed out on the top pick in 2020 draft, they’re still going to get a great talent at fourth overall. In fact, there is such a diverse spread of talent that should be available that an argument can be made for a handful of players to be taken with the pick. Today’s candidate just so happens to play in the Red Wings’ backyard.
This season for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), center Cole Perfetti really became an offensive catalyst for his team. With 111 points in 61 games, he displayed not only a knack for creating offensive opportunities, but an ability to finish them himself. On top of that, he is able to lean into his strengths in a way that masks his weaknesses.
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Outside of maybe Filip Zadina, the Red Wings don’t have a player like this in their system. It’s no secret that the team struggled to score this season. Perfetti’s tool-kit is one that would bolster the Red Wings’ offensive game for years to come.
At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Perfetti is small but stocky. Small guys in the NHL often have to rely on their skill being enough to sustain a career. In Perfetti’s case, he has turned a negative into a positive.
Perfetti is at his best with the puck on his stick — and that includes in the “tough” areas on the ice. He uses his low center of gravity as a means to stay on his feet as he works pucks along the boards. You can’t separate the puck from him; you have to separate him from the puck.
Because he’s so strong on the puck, he is able to handle it and allow the play to develop in front of him. His 74 assists this season are evidence of his ability to hit an open man. If the right play is to put the puck on net himself, “Goal” Perfetti can light the lamp. In fact, he has no issues putting the puck on net from any spot in the zone. A high-volume shooter with playmaking abilities certainly has value in the NHL.
Perfetti will likely be drafted as a center, and he has the potential to become a legitimate top-six center that you can build around. If the Red Wings can go into the future with Perfetti, Dylan Larkin and Joe Veleno down the middle, that’s a solid foundation. You’ve just got to surround them with the right wingers.
Otherwise, the Red Wings could develop Perfetti as a winger, where the player does have some experience on the left side. Put him alongside Larkin and Mantha, or Veleno and Zadina, and you’ve got the makings of a dominant offensive line. Essentially, whatever role/place that Alexis Lafrenière would have held in the Red Wings’ lineup, you could instead slot Perfetti in.
It’s good to have players that give you options. Some wingers can play both sides. Some defensemen are more versatile than others. With Perfetti, you’re getting a player that can fill nearly any role in your offense — he’ll look good doing it, too.
Perfetti is a perfect example of somebody who could use another year in the junior leagues. While he displays many NHL-caliber abilities, he also has weaknesses that would be easy for NHL opponents to exploit. One such weakness is his efforts without the puck.
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It’s important to clarify how great Perfetti is with the puck because without it, he doesn’t do a ton to move the needle. This isn’t Pavel Datsyuk or Patrice Bergeron we’re talking about here. Instead, you have a player that is pretty much a non-factor in the defensive zone. NHL coaches are going to want to see some development here.
Another season in the OHL also gives Perfetti time to mature physically. Some NHL defensemen are going to tower over him, so he needs to be up to the physical challenge from the onset. Luckily for the Red Wings, they can afford to wait a year while Perfetti does his thing over in Saginaw.
Best Player Available
As I’ve mentioned before, it is imperative to the Red Wings’ rebuild that they take the best player available at pick number four. Position and team-need doesn’t matter when your team needs help in every area.
Every player available to the Red Wings will have their drawbacks — there’s a reason they’re not going first overall. In the case of Perfetti, his skating isn’t top notch, and his defensive game needs some work. But that doesn’t take away from the strengths of his game.
You pick a player like Perfetti because of what he does, and in this case, he creates offense. He would instantly become the top prospect in the Red Wings’ pool if they picked him, and he would be a key part of their future offense.
Simply put: the Red Wings could use a player like Cole Perfetti.
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