Shift Work: Cole Perfetti
Welcome to the first edition of a new series called “Shift Work“. I’ll be bringing you some comprehensive breakdowns of a player’s game as we go over an entire game of tape from a player. We will be focusing in on that player’s shifts and getting a peek at what the average game of that player looks like. We will be highlighting a lot of things that scouts and evaluators look for when they are watching a player’s game. I couldn’t do this nearly as easy if it weren’t for collaboration with Prospect Shifts.
Prospect Shifts is an outstanding resource for talent evaluators and scouts alike as they condense a player’s game down into just their shifts. This shift-by-shift breakdown allows you to get a viewing of a player in far less time. Rather than watching a full 60-minute game with TV breaks and intermissions, you can get a quick viewing in within 20 minutes. The player is highlighted at the beginning of each shift and any important event such as a goal, assist, powerplay or penalty kill are all indicated in the bottom right corner of the video. It’s an excellent service but its certainly just one of many tools in an evaluator and/or scouts repertoire.
Without further ado, today’s subject is going to be one of the hottest names from the 2020 Draft at the moment, Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit. The high-end goal scorer is one of the hottest names in the prospect world right now as he just finished breaking the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup record for points in a tournament with 12 points in five games. He had an eye-popping eight goals, most of them highlight-reel quality. Today we are going to be looking at a game with team Canada from August 9th, 2019 against team Sweden at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. If you would like to follow along and rewatch the entirety of Perfetti’s shifts, sign-up for Prospect Shifts service ($5/$10 levels for a monthly subscription) and check it out here.
We start near the beginning of the game. Perfetti (#21 in Red) comes over the boards on the fly and immediately thinks offense. Understanding that his defenceman has the puck in their zone with time and space, Perfetti provides an outlet at the far blue line. This allows him to enter the zone with control, slow things down while his opponents rush back and give him time to wait for a trailing player. Rather than attacking the net with his good speed or waiting to hit the trailing forward, he dumps the puck around the net. While this isn’t a poor play, it doesn’t put his team in the best position. Being a little less anxious to get the puck off his stick could have allowed for a bit more of a dangerous chance.
Later in the same shift, Perfetti’s line does a good job of cutting off passing lanes in the neutral zone which leads to a turnover. The line is on the back half of a minute-plus long shift but still does a good job of moving the puck throughout the offensive zone. As soon as Hendrix Lapierre (#18 in red) crosses the blueline, Perfetti heads to the slot. He puts himself in a high danger position and continues to move his feet to get open. He floats in and out of the slot and crease area, preventing himself from being tied down by a defender in the net front.
Perfetti’s next shift came on the powerplay. After the puck was almost immediately cleared out of the Swedish defensive zone, Perfetti comes back to be one of the primary puck transporters through the neutral zone. He does a good job of entering the offensive zone with control and then pushing it down the boards while being tied up, allowing Quinton Byfield (#19 in red) to move the puck around the zone. The puck is recovered by the Swedes and cleared again. What Perfetti does next is what makes him a strong player in transition. He receives a pass from the goaltender and identifies a safe outlet. He makes the pass and then jumps back into the attack. Once in the offensive zone, Perfetti does what any dangerous offensive player would do and goes to the slot. He receives a pass in the slot. He attempts to make a touch pass to a player driving the net but it is thwarted by the Swedish defender in this instance.
Perfetti’s next shift is a display of his hustle and skating. Upon entering the offensive zone, the Swedish team regains control of the puck and begins to move it up the ice. Perfetti begins pumping his legs and using his above-average north-south skating to catch up to the Swedish attacking player. He applies backpressure and continues to chase the puck down and as soon as it comes loose in the corner, he regains control for the Canadians. He moves the puck up the ice with a good pass along the boards that isn’t corraled by the forward. The Swedes again being to push the puck up the ice, but Perfetti tracks the neutral zone pass, deflecting it out of play at the offensive blueline negating any dangerous chance from forming.
After a few shifts that were short and unimpactful, Perfetti does a good job of taking advantage of a bobbled puck at mid-ice. He gets into the offensive zone and thinks to shoot all the way. He fires a good shot that is blocker’d away by the Swedish goaltender. He then peels away from the net and circles back to the slot to open himself up for a pass. The pass never comes and the Swedes break out of the zone.
Overall, Perfetti had a good first period. He displayed a good pace and his skating was above average. The Canadian forward is constantly thinking offense and while he was unable to get onto the scoresheet in the opening frame, Perfetti does a good job of creating and being involved in chances. He knows exactly where to be in the offensive zone, doing a good job of spacing himself out from the defenders. He made some questionable decisions with the puck, often just seemingly throwing the puck into an open area when he felt that he didn’t have an opportunity to score.
To begin the second frame, Perfetti finally cashes in on his scoring chances. After some muddled play in the Canadian zone and the neutral zone, Perfetti is sent into the Swedish zone on a breakaway. He displays good acceleration and excellent hands. He finishes with a subtle backhand-forehand deke before roofing the puck over a sprawling goalie.
Scoring a goal seems to have put an extra pep in Perfetti’s step. On his next shift, following another Swedish goal that returned their one-goal lead, Perfetti instantly begins to apply an aggressive forecheck. Perfetti’s line as a whole chases the puck down and seemingly refuses to let the Swedes break out of their end of the ice. This effort helps set the tone for the rest of the second period.
Perfetti’s next shift begins in the offensive zone. He does a good job of covering the point when his blueliner pinches down the boards with the puck. A small play like this doesn’t seem like a big deal but the fact that Perfetti has an understanding of where he needs to be in the offensive zone, even in a support role, shows that he can continue to use his offensive skillset as he moves up levels.
Perfetti’s following shift again shows a few questionable puck decisions. After a bit of a scramble, Perfetti winds up with the puck in the neutral zone. Although there does seem to be some oncoming pressure, rather than dumping the puck in deep or finding a teammate along the boards, he weakly flips the puck over the blueline directly on the tape of a Swedish defender. Perfetti then nonchalantly forechecks by waving his stick at the Swedish player who easily moves around the Canadian and begins an odd-man breakout.
Perfetti next takes the ice with the same pace and aggressive forecheck that he began the period with. Casing down the puck carrier behind the net, he applies good backpressure forcing a pass before initially desired. Tracking back to the defensive zone, Perfetti is able to jump on another bobbled puck at the blueline, taking the puck the length of the ice on another breakaway. He accelerates at a high rate of speed, pulling away from Swedes in pursuit. This time, he decides to go forehand-backhand before putting the puck top-shelf to tie the game.
After tying the game at two, Perfetti’s next shift has him get another good scoring chance. As he comes onto the ice, the Canadian team is moving into the attacking zone. Perfetti rotates in behind the puck carrier, Justin Sourdif (#12 in red), then receives the pass with some open ice in the slot. He pulls the puck in and tries to curl the puck before releasing the shot. This small move helps disguise the shot and change the angle ever so slightly for the goalie.
His final shift of the second period begins with a good backcheck by the goal-scoring winger. He then begins to transition to offense. While he is unable to handle the outlet pass, he stays on the puck and applies a solid forecheck. Perfetti winds up with the puck behind the net and makes a nice play to the front of the net, putting the puck on the tape of Hendrix Lapierre (#18 in red) who is unable to put home the goal that would have given the Canadians their first lead of the contest.
Perfetti had a flashy second period. Scoring twice on the breakaway, the Saginaw Spirit forward showed off his elite shot and excellent hands. Although he doesn’t have dynamic skating, he does possess solid straight-line speed. He showed the ability to elevate the puck from in tight and capitalize on his chances. He still seemed to lack a full effort on some shifts but the goal-scoring ability is undeniable.
Perfetti begins the third period with a shift where he seemed a little lost in the shuffle. He stays in the play and continues to get to the dangerous areas. The only issue is that he doesn’t create separation on this shift, leading to a weak attempt at re-directing the puck on his only touch of the shift.
Below we can see a much better effort from the Hlinka-Gretzky Cups leading scorer. He engages in the play and forechecks effectively, stealing the puck below the red line. He sets up Lapierre in front of the net who is denied by the Swedish netminder. The puck bounces into the corner where the Canadian defender pinches in to attempt to maintain possession. Perfetti is again the player that covers the point, ensuring that his team has players in position to succeed.
Later on in the same shift, still at four-on-four, Perfetti and Lapierre continue to apply pressure. Switching and cycling the puck with the Canadian blueliners, they sustain pressure. Perfetti does a good job of driving the net, dishing off to Lapierre who is below the goal line and then heading straight for the net. He receives the return pass and is stonewalled by the Swedish netminder once again. Perfetti has a nose for the net and knows how to get to those dangerous areas.
On his next shift, both teams seem to be engaging a bit more physically. The puck is in a bit of a scramble with both teams involved and initially Perfetti is engaging physically and despite his lack of strength, he does a good job of causing the puck to come loose but then shies away from the physical play as soon as the opportunity presents itself and stays to the outside as the rest of the play progresses. While the physical play isn’t a must for a forward as skilled as Perfetti, he does need to get stronger so that in instances like this, he can successfully retrieve the puck and move the play up ice.
Perfetti had a couple more inconsequential shifts towards the end of the third period. His final shift of regulation was a bit more of the same. He is involved in the play and does a good job of coming back in the neutral zone to ensure that the clearing pass from his defender isn’t taken by the Swedes but he doesn’t seem to do be fully engaged again. He has two goals by this point in the game, but the fact that he disappears at times is an issue. He doesn’t hurt his team in any of the shifts that he seems to take off, but he also wasn’t helping his team.
The final frame in regulation was Perfetti’s least impactful. While there were moments that he flashed his outrageous offensive toolset, there were too many shifts that seemed a little lackluster. He isn’t the most dynamic skater and that may be a factor in his long, winding paths around the ice. His goal-scoring prowess is elite and he is always thinking about pushing the puck up the ice. He could have been a bit tired from a tight schedule at the tournament as well.
Overtime and Shootout
Perfetti’s two goals in regulation helped Canada stave off elimination after not trailing in a single game at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament until this point. Perfetti looked to play the hero in the overtime frame. In his first shift of the extra period, Perfetti took a pass from Byfield in the corner but was pushed off the puck by the Swedish defender. Losing the puck, Perfetti did a good job of chasing the puck carrier and then attempting to close in on the passing lanes. While it wasn’t his best shift, he did seem to find the effort that was missing at times in the third period.
Back on the ice at the halfway point of the overtime, Perfetti had his most dangerous shift of the extra frame. In a good defensive position to start, Perfetti gets on his horse once the Canadian team regains control of the puck. The Canadian captain, Jamie Drysdale (#4 in red), passes the puck to Perfetti as he exits the defensive zone. This allows Perfetti to show his good north-south speed yet again as well as good hands through the neutral zone. Once in the offensive zone, Perfetti doesn’t shy away and head to the outside, he attacks the middle of the ice. Although the play doesn’t result in a goal, the young Canadian forward looks dangerous yet again with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone.
The overtime ends with the score still knotted at two. Heading to a shootout, Perfetti was expected to factor into the Canadian attack but what came next was special. He starts the penalty shot parade for the Canadians with a slick move to put the puck through the goalie’s pads. He allowed the goalie to make the move, showed patience and then tucked it home once the five-hole became open.
His next attempt was the only one of his four attempts that didn’ t find the back of the net. He makes a good move forehand to backhand but the goalie is patient and easily stops the puck. It was still an excellent display of Perfetti’s hands and puck skills.
This is where the special moment began. On his third attempt, Perfetti had to score to continue and extend the shootout. Perfetti again used the goaltender’s movement against him, waiting to tuck it five Phole but this time, moving the opposite direction as his first shootout goal. The diversity and creativity in Perfetti’s shootout attempts were impressive to this point.
Now finally, the goal that sent the Canadians to the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup final! Another creative move, he uses a similar deke as the attempt before this but rather than tucking the puck through the goaltenders five-hole, he elevates from in tight which allowed him to score just above the goaltender’s blocker.
Perfetti was the hero in this game and most of the tournament for the Canadians. His shootout performance will go up there with Jonathan Toews from the 2007 World Juniors and Troy Terry at the 2017 World Juniors. Scoring a total of five times, even if the stat sheet only counts three, Perfetti vaulted himself to the forefront of the early 2020 NHL Draft discussion.
Review and Evaluations
There is no doubt that Cole Perfetti is a force offensively. He has one of the best shots in the 2020 NHL Draft class at this stage of their development. The Saginaw Spirit forward is always thinking offense which is what you want from a modern-day winger. He attacks the middle fo the ice with proficiency and doesn’t shy away from the front of the opponent’s net. Although he doesn’t engage physically, he is slippery enough to slide in and out of traffic, finding the open areas of the ice. His vision is above average and his passing is on par. Offensively, he is a coach’s dream. He tries to filter all offense to the front of the net and stays off the sidewall when at five-on-five.
Defensively, Perfetti seems to know where to be and gets there consistently but his effort can be questioned at times. This leads you to believe that the defensive side of his game can improve dramatically as he matures physically and mentally. He has a good stick and understands what the opponent wants to do thanks to his high-end hockey-IQ. As previously mentioned, physicality isn’t his calling card and strength will need to be added, much like any other 17-year-old prospect. He certainly has an understanding of the defensive side of the game to become an above-average defensive winger.
Perfetti isn’t a perfect player, even if the hype surrounding the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup would suggest so. Despite having an all-world performance in this game against Sweden, he did have some shifts that were lackluster and effort was an issue at times. Small things like making lazy passes or dumping the puck to space because he doesn’t have a scoring opportunity need to be cleaned up but overall, Perfetti is a high-end talent that will go high in the 2020 NHL Draft. He currently sits at number seven on Dobber Prospects’ managing editor Cam Robinson’s rankings. Perfetti is a player worth watching over the next 10 months without a doubt. If you like goals, you’ll like Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit.
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