While COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the hockey world for much of the 2020-21 season, it created a series of unique opportunities at home and abroad for Cole Perfetti
It’s fortunate Cole Perfetti is good at stops and starts, since that’s the
way his hockey career has unfolded in the last 14 months.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the hockey world in March 2020, which
included his Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season with the Saginaw Spirit,
the talented forward essentially spent the next nine months devoid of a
meaningful hockey game.
But the switch flipped back on last fall when he was invited to Canada’s
National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp. From there, he represented
Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, played 32 games with the
Manitoba Moose in a condensed American Hockey League (AHL) schedule and
accepted an additional invitation to play for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World
And somewhere in between, he also attended training camp with the Winnipeg
Jets, the NHL team that selected him 10th overall last October in the 2020
NHL Entry Draft.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Perfetti
said from Riga, Latvia – the site of this year’s world championship.
“It’s been a bucket list of things and a lot of my dreams have come true in
the last eight months. It’s been amazing.”
As rare as it is for a teenager to represent Canada at the world
championship as Perfetti, Braden Schneider and Owen Power are all doing
this spring, it was equally unique for a 19-year-old from North America to
play in the AHL.
But due to the OHL’s inability to start their 2020-21 season amid the
pandemic, Perfetti found a spot with the Moose – the Jets’ top minor league
It was an appropriate landing zone and preparation precursor to playing for
Canada in Latvia since every night the competition is against men, not
“It was so good for me,” said the Whitby, Ont., product. “The OHL would
still have been great development, but you’re just not getting that size,
skill, strength and speed that professional hockey has.
“I developed so much this year. I could see it my game and feel it in my
game. I know how much better of a hockey player I am compared to when I
first arrived in Winnipeg. The elevation in my game allowed me to get an
invitation to worlds.”
Arriving in the Manitoba capital as a top prospect thanks to a 37-goal and
111-point campaign with the Spirit in 2019-20, it would be presumed he
would just provide that level of offensive contribution to his new team.
But as veteran Moose head coach Pascal Vincent cautioned, asking a
19-year-old to score at that rate in the AHL is a folly expectation.
“I watched him at the World Juniors and obviously he has an offensive
mind-set, and we didn’t want to change that, but it’s a big step coming
into our league.”
However, it didn’t take long for Perfetti to find his groove with the
Moose. He arrived as one of 16 first-year players on the team and departed
for Latvia in early May sitting second in team scoring with nine goals and
26 points in 32 games.
At one stage he fashioned a seven-game point scoring streak consisting of
four goals and 13 points – good for the AHL Rookie of the Month award for
April. Of those points, 12 of 13 were either goals or primary assists and
he did it without cutting corners away from the puck and inside his own
“He didn’t cheat the game defensively to create offence,” said Vincent. “He
was really smart about figuring things out. You don’t have to tell him
With excellent vision, skating ability and hockey acumen, it’s no secret in
understanding why he’s part of Canada’s entry at the IIHF World
It’s Goal Perfetti time, of course! 🚨
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 28, 2021
Overall, it’s the third time Perfetti has represented his country in the
last three years. This includes the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he led
the tournament in scoring with eight goals and 12 points in five games.
“That was first time ever that I played on European ice,” he said. “It was
huge for me to see where I stood against the best competition around the
world and a big confidence booster going into my draft year. I built a lot
of confidence off that tournament.”
Directing most of his international play along the way has been André
Tourigny, who is an assistant coach with Team Canada at the worlds and was
Perfetti’s head coach at the 2021 World Juniors. He also game-planned
against the young star for two seasons in the OHL as the bench boss of the
It is this connection that helped tender the invitation for Perfetti to
join Team Canada in Latvia as one of the team’s three teenagers this month.
“He’s a smart kid,” said Tourigny. “He wants to learn… he’s a fun kid to
coach and I really like the way he plays.”
Understandably thankful for the opportunity to be part of Team Canada
again, Perfetti knows his participation in the world championship is
another significant step in his development to his ultimate goal of earning
a spot on the Winnipeg Jets next season.
“This is an NHL tournament,” he said. “As a young kid who hasn’t played an
NHL game, getting a chance to play with and against NHLers is very helpful
for me. This tournament is great for my development. Anytime you get to
wear the Maple Leaf and represent Canada and do it at the world stage is
“It’s going to be huge for my confidence leading into next year and
hopefully jumping up to the Jets.”