Prospect Report: Cole Perfetti
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Cole Perfetti is one of the smartest, most productive players in this upcoming draft. The 5’10, 185 pound forward from Whitby, Ontario is essentially a consensus top 10 pick amongst the scouting community, and for good reason. The Saginaw Spirit took him 5th overall in the 2018 OHL Draft, and he’s been their best player since the moment he first put on the jersey. He led the Spirit in scoring as a rookie in the 2018-2019 season, with 37 goals and 37 assists for 74 points in 63 games. This past season, he scored 37 goals and assisted on 74 more, for a total of 111 points in 61 games, third in the CHL to only Marco Rossi and Alexis Lafreniere.
Perfetti is naturally a center, but he can be used quite effectively on the wing as well, which is where many NHL scouts project him to play at the next level. He’s the type of player that can potentially lead his NHL team in scoring one day, and it would make sense to play him on the wing to alleviate some defensive responsibilities and maximize his offensive impact. From what I’ve seen though, there’s no glaring holes in his defensive game. He’s fine in the faceoff circle, and he’s an effective forechecker as well. His exceptional hand-eye coordination aids him in knocking pucks out of the air too. The key part in evaluating a high scoring forward’s defensive game is whether or not they’re engaged, and keeping their feet moving in their own zone. He’s also got a bit of a nastier side, and isn’t afraid to use his body along the boards. He’s on the smaller side, but he’s sturdy with a fairly low center of gravity. While Perfetti certainly isn’t a defensive machine, he checks those boxes.
Perfetti’s skating is one of the more controversial topics among scouts when it comes to this draft. He doesn’t have an elite top speed, but it’s my belief that there’s no obvious technical flaws holding him back from getting there. His technique is solid, and he’s got enough speed to blow past OHL defenders. With 2-3 more years of additional training from whoever drafts him, he could certainly add another gear or two. Just look at how Brayden Point’s game transformed with faster, more dynamic skating. Skating and defensive play are the only two aspects of Perfetti’s game that aren’t elite, so let's move onto his bread and butter: offense.
Perfetti’s playmaking, stickhandling, and shooting are all exceptional. If I were to rank the 2020 crop solely on those three attributes, he would no doubt be in the top 3. He sees the ice incredibly well, and has the innate ability to create space and opportunities for himself and his teammates. When he’s on the ice, he wants the puck on his stick, and he’s so confident with it. Perfetti can circle the offensive zone forever due to his smarts, even though he’s not an elite skater:
In the beginning of the clip, Perfetti disrupts a play at the goal line and almost gets a scoring chance out of it if not for a quick pokecheck. After his team regains possession, the puck goes to the other side of the zone. Watch Perfetti as he skates toward it. He’s looking at the puck, but he also turns his head to see what’s going on behind him. He recognizes the space he has, and is able to take the puck around the defense, finishing on the backhand. He’s able to read the defense and evade checkers at a level way beyond his age, and his puck protection skills are elite. I don’t think he gets enough credit for how much of a nightmare he is along the boards in the offensive zone, as he’s often using those situations to his advantage. It’s not uncommon for him to bank the puck off the boards to himself, or quickly slide it between his legs and reverse the play. Here’s one of my favorite assists of his from this season:
He pretty much displayed everything I just talked about in that one clip. He recognizes that he can’t go around the defenseman, so he throws on the brakes and acts like he’s going to pin the puck. Once he stops, you can see him pick his head up and survey the front of the net. After looking for less than a second, Perfetti is able to burn two defensemen, and put himself unguarded in front of the net. The goaltender is locked onto him at this point, so Perfetti defers to a teammate for a wide open net. Plays like these are what separates Perfetti from the majority of his peers. Here’s another prime example of his unique playmaking skills:
He’s literally falling to the ice, but still manages to put a pass on the tape of a teammate who’s being covered by three guys.
He finds and attacks open ice so well, and he’s strong enough to hold off opposing players, barring a massive size difference. There was a moment in the CHL top prospects game that really stood out to me in that regard:
He’s able to stay strong on his edges and maintain possession while being pressured, and doesn’t make a panic decision.
Perfetti’s hands are another one of his premier tools. He can stickhandle his way through traffic as well as anyone in this draft, and has complete control over the puck when he has it. Just watch the way he gets to the net here:
When Perfetti finds an option or is forced to move the puck, he can thread passes through multiple defenders with ease, and will often make plays you could never see coming. His confidence level allows him to get creative and take risks that other players wouldn’t, and they pay off the majority of the time. When it comes to the power play, it’s like he’s playing against middle schoolers. Perfetti is already dangerous enough with minimal space at 5 on 5, and he can basically do whatever he wants on the man advantage. He’s someone who I would peg to run a power play as a playmaker, but he’s got another trick up his sleeve, an elite shot.
If I had to pick one of the three aforementioned aspects as Perfetti’s best, it would be his shooting. His release is absolutely wicked, and he can pick corners easily from short or long distance. It’s not just his quick release and accuracy that makes him such a good shooter, it’s the way he handles the puck prior to shooting. He’s able to blend his release seamlessly into his natural forehand/backhand motion, and can hide his intentions until the last second. Instead of simply dragging the puck to change his shooting angle every time, Perfetti will often work in a few quick stickhandles to one side or the other, before rifling the puck. He’s also a master of recognizing and shooting through screens. Just watch this goal against Flint with some A+ biznasty commentary:
He hides the puck behind defenders’ skates, and lets it rip through their legs. He can also get his shot off under pressure, and in awkward positions. His strong side one timer is very good, albeit not quite the level you’d expect from a shooter like him. However, Perfetti’s off side one timer is elite. He’s able to fling the puck with accuracy and power in one swift motion. He also owns a devastating backhander, arguably the best in this draft class. He’s such a good finisher in close quarters, with the ability to deke out goaltenders at will:
Perfetti’s potential at the next level is huge. He could be a first line, point per game type of player. He’s blessed with elite offensive skill, and while he probably won’t be stepping onto NHL ice next season, I wouldn’t count him out to play a serious scoring role in the 2021-2022 season.