Cole Perfetti is an 18-year-old (January birthday) Canadian. He is listed at 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, and is a left-handed shot. He has played his whole junior career in Canada and has long established himself as a prolific scorer. Perfetti was ranked fourth in the midterm North American Draft Prospect Rankings and dropped one spot to fifth in the final rankings.
Perfetti played in a couple of different leagues before making the move to the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL two years ago. During the 2017-18 season, he played 64 games in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) where he tallied 125 points (52 goals, 73 assists). For perspective, Tyler Seguin (86 points in 51 games played during the 2007-08 season) and Mitch Marner (86 points in 55 games played during the 2012-13 season) are both alumni of the same league.
He has since continued this torrid scoring pace in the OHL. In his first season with Saginaw, he tallied 74 points (37 goals, 37 assists) in 63 games, to go along with a plus-36 rating. These numbers led his team, and he also helped the Spirit to a 45-17-6 record, as well as a trip to the OHL conference finals. He followed that up with 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) and a plus-49 rating in 61 games this season. The point total was 31 higher than anyone else on his team, and he ranked second in the OHL, only behind fellow prospect Marco Rossi. Also, to end the season, he rode a 12-game point streak where he racked up 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists).
Additionally, Perfetti participated, like much of the other 2020 draft-eligible prospects, in the 2019-20 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Although Team Canada lost to Russia in the gold medal game, Perfetti was electric. He led the tournament in scoring with 12 points, eight of which were goals, which also led the tournament. These totals were higher than consensus number two overall pick, Quinton Byfield, and top defensive prospect Jamie Drysdale.
The Scouting Report
Perfetti is a prolific scorer, and his best traits come in his offensive game. He is both a terrific shooter and an elite playmaker. His stickhandling, combined with his offensive awareness and hockey-IQ, makes him elite in finding open teammates and setting up great opportunities.
His shot is also a strength of his game, as was evident in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which helps him avoid the designation as a pure playmaker. And to give a comparison to fellow prospect Marco Rossi, who plays a similar game and is a slightly higher rated prospect, Perfetti is the better goal-scorer.
There are a few areas where Perfetti does need to improve. The main two are defense and the ability to avoid getting hit. His defense is troublesome, and it usually comes down to his effort. By watching the tape, you can tell Perfetti would much rather be on the offense, and that is usually evident by the lack of effort he turns in on some occasions in that area of the ice.
Another area of his game that is a concern is his size. At only 177 pounds, Perfetti is prone to being knocked off the puck and unable to constantly win board battles. He is also susceptible to big hits as is seen a few times on his tape in the OHL.
Usually players of this size, a great example being the 5-foot-9 Marco Rossi, rely on superb skating to combat this issue. However, Perfetti’s skating, although still solid, is not where it needs to be given his size.
Perfetti is another elite prospect that joins a crowded, deep group of forwards at the top of the board. His offensive game is on par, or even better than the likes of Marco Rossi and Quinton Byfield. But his defensive game and undersized frame do need work. Due to this, it will be at least a year or two before he can meaningfully contribute at the NHL-level.
Despite that, his elite offensive talents are too much to ignore. And this is evident by his high rankings by several different scouts. Expect Perfetti to be off the board anywhere between picks four and six. This means the Devils may not have a shot at him, given the team is most likely not going to be picking until at least sixth.
Fit With the Devils
As is the issue with the Devils selecting Rossi, each him and Perfetti are centers. And the Devils, hopefully, already have the top two center positions, Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, locked down for years to come. However, there has been controversy in categorizing what position Perfetti will actually play in the NHL. Several scouts have him listed as a left-wing, while others have said this will not work, as his play faltered when he was switched to winger during different stints during his junior career.
However, either way, as I mentioned in our draft series piece on Rossi, Perfetti is too good of a talent to pass up. And if Rossi is not available, and the Devils are lucky enough to have Perfetti fall into its lap, he must be selected no matter the position he ultimately plays.
I explained in our last draft series piece on Jake Sanderson that the Devils should use its first pick on a forward given how talented the group is. Perfetti, no doubt, falls into this group of elite talent. And would make a great selection with the Devils’ first pick.
Ranking of Evaluated Prospects
1. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)
2. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020))
3. Cole Perfetti (Today)
4. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)
5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)
6. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)
7. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)