Perfetti, self-professed ‘hockey nerd’, primed for big moment
Cole Perfetti has been labelled by many as the most intelligent player in this year’s draft.
He was, after all, voted the smartest player in the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference in the 2019-20 OHL Coaches Poll in March.
Nicknamed ‘Goal Perfetti’ after his 37-goal rookie season, Perfetti evolved to dominate his opponents with a whole new offensive toolkit this year.
He nearly doubled his assist total from the season prior in two fewer games. With defenders preparing for the sophomore to drive to the net, he would often drag them over and then release a pass at the last second.
Perfetti’s transformation into more of a dual-threat forward speaks to how well he can analyze his opponents.
While some players might seem like they were born able to see everything on the ice in slow motion, the clichéd description of a high hockey IQ is something that can only be learned through a lifetime of studying the game.
Perfetti, a self-described hockey nerd, began honing his skills from the age of six, when his family began billeting for the Oshawa Generals.
In the 2007-08 Ontario Hockey League season, the Perfetti family took in a 16-year-old rookie by the name of Andy Andreoff, who stayed with them throughout his time in Oshawa. In Andreoff’s five years in the league, Perfetti watched future NHL stars Scott Laughton, Boone Jenner and John Tavares play weekly.
When the Whitby, ON. product wasn’t at a Generals game, or on the ice himself, he was finding another way to fit more hockey into his day.
“I was the kind of kid who would go on YouTube on my dad’s computer and look up hockey highlights, best goals, shootout goals,” explained Perfetti, No 9 in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2020 draft.
“If I couldn’t watch live games on television, then I’d resort to YouTube.”
It didn’t take long for Perfetti to realize he was beginning to emulate the career of his billet brother.
At age 10, he led his team to the championship at the storied Brick Invitational, hosted at West Edmonton Mall every year.
It was that year that he began working with Nick Quinn, Andreoff’s teammate in Oshawa and the co-founder of Power Edge Pro, a training service with the likes of John Tavares and Connor McDavid as clients.
The years of work Perfetti has put into studying his game — under the guidance of Andreoff and numerous coaches and pro players — will certainly pay off at the draft, where he is projected to be a top-10 pick.
“If he doesn’t have the best hockey IQ in the draft class, he’s up there,” Dylan Galloway, FCHockey’s head Eastern scout, said.
“He is thinking a step ahead of most other players on the ice. He positions himself to make the right play and finds holes in the opponent’s defense for both skating and passing lanes.”
The condensed schedule of the NHL playoffs meant the 18-year-old was able to take in a lot of hockey this summer. With limited access to rinks, he had more time to watch the best players in the world go head to head.
“These past couple of months here, watching three, four, five, six games a day have been a dream. It’s hockey heaven for me,” Perfetti said.
After watching 5-foot-10, 166-pound Brayden Point lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup championship, Perfetti — who is the same height and 11 pounds heavier — detailed how professional hockey has evolved to benefit players like him.
“The way the game is going now, you have to be a quicker player who can think the game at a very high level and that suits me very well,” said Perfetti. “It’s good to see that hockey is going that way. The skill is at its highest, and the fans’ attraction is at its highest.”
Galloway explained how he doesn’t think the common knock on Perfetti about his lack of speed for a small player will hold him back.
“Players as smart and hard-working as Perfetti have a way of finding a way to improve their skating and let their intelligence shine through.,” said the scout.
“He might not be a top-line center at the next level, but could definitely be a top-line winger or a very special second-line center or winger.”
Whatever the next barrier is on Perfetti’s road to the NHL, chances are he’s already thought of a way around it.