Cole Perfetti has been unstoppable.
One of 22 Canadian Hockey League talents representing Team Canada at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the prolific Saginaw Spirit scorer has flashed his talent in each preliminary contest, finding the back of the net at least once in all three games to total five goals and a pair of assists heading into Friday’s semi-final.
To fans of the OHL, Perfetti’s ability to frequently light the lamp comes as no surprise – he led all league rookies with 37 goals in 2018-19 – but doing so now on the national stage has been an opportunity to showcase his skill to a wider audience and talent evaluators alike.
For Perfetti, he credits his past experience donning the maple leaf, particularly the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge that saw him put up a nine-point effort with Team Canada White, in easing his return to the national spotlight.
“(The U17) was a real eye opener to see how good the rest of the world is,” Perfetti told the Canadian Hockey League. “There were a couple differences with the international style of play but it was a cool learning experience. I took a lot from it and it has helped me a lot in this tournament so far.”
In putting together this year’s squad, Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen preached that, in order to have success, the team must play to its identity, one built around speed and skill and mixed with a relentless work ethic. Given a 3-0 record through the preliminary, in which Canada has outscored its opponents by an incredible 21-1 margin, Perfetti is confident he and his teammates have readily embraced the desired style of play.
“We’ve been playing really well and displaying the Canadian way,” Perfetti detailed. “We have been playing really good offensively, defensively, we’ve been shutting down teams, and playing a really strong game. We’re trying to move the puck, cycle it down low, wear down teams, and wait for the opportunity to strike. We have capitalized on teams and made them pay when they make mistakes, so it’s been really good.”
Following a perfect preliminary, next up is Friday’s semi-final showdown versus Team Sweden, always a formidable opponent. Naturally, as the stakes rise, so too does Perfetti’s opportunity to impress on the big stage, particularly as the 17-year-old plays before an eager scouting community preparing for the 2020 NHL Draft.
But given his success – both in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and his play with the Spirit last season – don’t expect much of an adjustment in Perfetti’s style simply because he has become more of a focal point. Rather, he plans to maintain the approach that got him to where he is today.
“Obviously I want to get a lot bigger, faster, and stronger, but I want to keep the same way I have been doing it,” Perfetti explained. “It seems to be working out pretty well for me so I don’t want to change it too much. Hopefully that will work out.”
Back in Saginaw, Perfetti is not only coming off a solid debut season in which he led all OHL freshmen in scoring in both the goals and points columns, but he was also a key contributor in helping the Spirit advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history. He’s hungry to take the next step in 2019-20, but in the meantime, his focus is on Team Canada and the pride that comes with winning a national championship.
“There is no feeling like pulling on the Team Canada jersey. Every time you get to do it, it’s a real honour,” Perfetti added. “It brings out another level of your game, so it makes you want to work even harder and play even better for everyone back home.”