The past few weeks in Jetsland have been tense. The incessant Patrik Laine rumors, looming NHL draft, and general uncertainty over next season have cast shadows of doubt on Winnipeg’s future. At tonight’s 2020 NHL draft, the Jets needed a win. We, as fans, needed a win. With the 10th overall pick in hand, the Jets had the potential to reshape their franchise’s future. As the first 9 picks rolled in, our eyes got wider and wider. There, impossible as it seemed, sat Cole Perfetti. Like clockwork, the Jets made no mistake in taking Saginaw’s leading offensive star.
Perfetti is one of the smartest players in this year’s draft. He’s an exceptionally gifted playmaker whose spatial awareness, vision, and distribution make him a threat anywhere on the ice. Perfetti ripped the OHL apart as a member of the Spirit, nabbing a cool 111 points in 61 games this season. While his 37 goals matched his previous campaign’s numbers, the assists nearly doubled. Just how did one of the top OHL points-getters in recent memory fall to the Jets?
The first thing scouts question is Perfetti’s skating. His edgework often appears to lack an explosive acceleration, which does put him at a disadvantage if his defensive gapping is lacking. Perfetti also struggled to captain transitions up the ice as effectively as some skaters who can blaze a fiery trail (see the Foudy brothers). The reality is that, yes, Cole’s skating isn’t as elite as some of the best in the business. However, Perfetti has been spending his off-season building additional strength and improving his edgework. If his stride is pro-ready by the start of next season, he’ll likely be capable of making Winnipeg’s line-up come next January.
The only other fault Perfetti has been tagged with is his smaller size, clocking in at 5’10”. I don’t really think this is much of an issue because Cole seems to dominate possession of the puck, even when under pressure. He has a knack for working himself out of trouble, and can still pull off unbelievable passes while being routinely man-marked. Perfetti’s brain seems to account for his issues with mobility, so his hands and hockey IQ do the rest. Cole is an incredibly dangerous player in the offensive zone, able to find backdoor seam passes or blister a shot himself with relative ease. His tenaciousness and engine ensure that he won’t let a play die, even if it looks busted.
When all is said and done, we’re left with a prospect that should make Jets fans weep with joy. Perfetti’s flaws can’t mask the fact that Winnipeg likely just drafted one of the best players it’s ever come across. Cole has near-limitless potential, in part because his mind allows him to assault the ice with incredible skill. With the recent work he’s been putting in to improve his step and his physical strength, the Jets are knocking on the door of a potential superstar. Some have wondered if Perfetti will end up as a winger, but it’s safe to say the plan will begin down the middle. Rejoice, Jets fans, because the Jets may have just drafted their best centre ever.