Who Will the Montreal Canadiens Select in the First Round?

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HAMILTON, ON – JANUARY 16TH: Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

COLE PERFETTI

C, Saginaw Spirit

Whitby, ON

From one dominant OHL centreman to another. Cole Perfetti may well be taken as early as fourth overall, but when it comes to the NHL Entry Draft, you never know which prospects will fall, just that certain ones will. Put simply, Cole Perfetti is a Nick Suzuki with a significantly more lethal shot and a likely higher hockey IQ as well; and this is no slight to the Montreal Canadiens’ rookie, just a testament to how good Perfetti is.

The Whitby, ON native was known as a shoot-first type of player leading up to his draft year. For instance, he accumulated 37 goals, 37 assists and 72 points in 63 games last season (1.14 PPG). However, he modified his playstyle going into this past season and following a dominant Hlinka-Gretzky performance (8 goals, 4 assists in 5 games for 2.4 PPG), the change proved to pay dividends, as he “only” matched his goal tally from the previous season, but his assist total precisely doubled, with 74, giving him 111 points in 61 games (1.82 PPG).

Two other reasons for which I make the Suzuki comparison are because the biggest drawback to both players entering their respective drafts has been their just average skating ability and acceleration as well as their average frame that is accompanied with surprising lower-body strength, making it difficult for opponents to bully them in puck battles. Suzuki went 13th overall in 2017 following a 65 game campaign with Owen Sound in which he scored 45 times and added 51 assists for 96 points (1.48 PPG).

It was not until his draft+2 season that Suzuki began to focus a lot more on his playmaking ability when he racked up 34 goals and 60 assists for 94 points in 59 games split between Owen Sound and Guelph (1.59 PPG). He followed this up with an absolutely dominant display in the OHL playoffs en-route to a championship and a Memorial Cup appearance. He scored 16 goals and added 26 assists for 42 points in just 24 games (1.75 PPG). He added 3 goals and 4 assists in 4 Memorial Cup games. I am delving into the details to demonstrate how Suzuki’s play hit another gear when he modified his game to be more focused on playmaking, which has allowed him to more easily translate his strengths to the NHL level.

It is an indication of Perfetti’s maturity to have made this same modification to his game two full years earlier than a quite mature player in the elder Suzuki brother. Given Perfetti’s statistics – and the determination he displayed in pursuing his schooling at a high level alongside hockey, being named the OHL’s student-athlete of the year – it is no surprise that the player is highly-touted and in most other years, he’d be a lock to go top-3, but as most media outlets have mentioned countless times, the top-end of this year’s draft is extraordinarily strong. This being said, any team picking from 4th onward would make a very good selection in Perfetti, and if the Habs end up with him, I will be one happy camper!

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