Every year, there seems to always be a player who appears out of practically no where to rise monumentally over the course of the season on draft lists. This year, all signs point to David Perron of the Lewiston MAINEiacs as tone such player.
At 18, he’s already been passed over by the NHL draft once and was an unknown commodity at the beginning of the season. Steadily but surely, this Sherbrooke native has caught scouts’ eyes and now, talk of him potentially being a first-round selection has grown from a slight murmur to a roar.
The leading scorer for Lewiston during the regular season with 39 goals and 83 points in 70 games, Perron finished 23rd overall in the league and second among all QMJHL rookies, behind only Jakub Voracek, who is also expected to go high in the 2007 draft. He raised his game to another level during the QMJHL playoffs, where he helped lead the MAINEiacs to their first QMJHL championship, scoring 12 goals and adding 16 assists for 28 points in 17 post-season games, good enough for third in the league.
Unfortunately for Perron and Lewiston, the goals were not as plentiful when the team flew out west for the 2007 Memorial Cup. In four games in Vancouver, Perron tallied just a goal and ended with three points as the MAINEiacs ended with a record of 1-3.
This is rather far from where Perron was a season ago, when he was first eligible for the NHL Entry Draft. As Lewiston GM and head coach Clem Jodoin explains, "Two years ago, he was Midget C and last year he played Junior AAA in St. Jerome." Lewiston’s gamble of drafting Perron 101st overall in the sixth round of the QMJHL draft in 2006 has certainly paid off handsomely for them so far, but according to Jodoin, it wasn’t luck at all. "My head scout used to coach him in the summertime, in summer hockey and he knew his dad, he knew the kid and from there, we called him up and we ended up drafting him."
Perron’s game is based on puck possession which meshes well with the Lewiston system. Jodoin describes him as a "a smart kid, intelligent, great hands, decent grit," and goes on to acknowledge his ability at cycling the puck saying, "(he’s) very good down low, when he has the puck he’s very good, he turns his back, protecting the puck and he’s got good vision."
Kim Houston from the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau has watched Perron all season long and describes him "a special player and I mean, a special teams player. When I first notice him is on the power play, early on in the year and especially four-on-four situations as well." Houston continues by saying, "He’s got some deadly one-on-one skills and some great puck skills and he’s always seems to know where that puck is." And he notes, "He’s been playing pretty solid; I’ve been impressed with him."
No prospect is without fault and Perron is certainly no exception. Houston points out that "He sometimes takes some risks, but I think the reward is a lot higher than the risk," and also mentions that "I know Clem has been working on it with him, but his defensive play, just playing in his own end. If you’re going to play at the next level, you’ve got to know how to play in your own end without the puck. Ninety percent of the game is played without the puck and whether your team has possession or your team doesn’t have possession, you have got to know how to play when you don’t have it. I think that’s where he’s got to work really hard on."
Although his defensive game isn’t as strong, a fact that is much more apparent on a Lewiston squad known around the Q for their play in their own end, he has made impressive strides in beginning to identify and address his faults. Jodoin acknowledges that Perron isn’t always "as good as he could be" but is quick to point to his work ethic as a sign that Perron will continue to improve. "In Lewiston, we have the ice as long as we want, so sometimes the practice starts at ten o’clock on the ice and he comes off the ice at noon, so he’s always on the ice, two and a half, three hours a day."
Even off the ice, Jodoin says Perron works to constantly improve his skills "He’s got some good hands, but he works on his hands. Works twenty, thirty minutes a day on his hands, to handle that disc, it’s not a gift, he works at it." Finally, Jodoin repeats the often heard adage about the new NHL requiring players who can skate but notes that "(Perron) has to improve on his skating, he’s not a bad skater, but he has to improve."
Jodoin refuses to make comparisons between the level of play of Perron and other 2007-eligible prospects or other 18-year-olds in the QMJHL, saying only "In my mind, although he’s 18 years old, for the first year in the league, I think he opened up some eyes. He’s got some talent."
Given Perron’s unique situation, comparing him to anyone else seems unfair and while Perron does benefit from being a year older and presumably a bit farther along in some aspects of his development, it is undeniable that his considerable talents are still raw and relatively untapped.
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.