Perfetti scores twice for Jets in shootout loss
Goals come hours after club honours Hawerchuk
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Cole Perfetti will forever be linked to Dale Hawerchuk and his family. On the October 2020 night the Ontario teenager was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets — 10th overall, no less — it was Crystal Hawerchuk who announced the pick.
Given that history, it was rather serendipitous that Perfetti went out and had a big game just a few hours after an emotional public ceremony and statue unveiling that honoured “Ducky” outside Canada Life Centre. The now 20-year-old scored both goals as the Jets dropped a 3-2 shootout preseason decision to the Edmonton Oilers.
“Obviously it’s a very big deal, the legacy that Dale left here,” Perfetti said following the game. “I didn’t get the chance to meet him, but he left a big print here in Winnipeg, in the city and the organization. It was a big deal tonight, you saw the crowd. That shows you how much he meant to the city, to the team. Having a little bit of a connection there, Ms. Hawerchuk doing the selection a couple years ago, is pretty cool. A great night to honour him. It was special all around.”
Winnipeg is now 2-1-1 through four preseason games, with just a home-and-home against Calgary left before the puck drops for real on the regular-season beginning Oct. 14.
Both teams sat out several big stars in this one. Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor and Josh Morrissey watched for Winnipeg, while Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse were among the spectators for Edmonton.
Perfetti was denied what would have been a highlight-reel assist in the third period, as a Pierre-Luc Dubois goal was wiped off the board by an offside challenge.
“I had no idea, and then I went to the bench and a couple guys were like ‘Yeah, that might come back,’” said Perfetti. “So that was frustrating, because that was a nice little play all around as a five-man unit.”
With time running out on training camp, there was a noticeable increase in intensity, especially from players still fighting for jobs.
On the Jets side, 18-year-old Brad Lambert had another impressive performance coming off his one goal, one assist debut on Thursday in Montreal, dazzling with his speed and skill. He would have also drawn a helper on the disallowed Dubois goal. Coach Rick Bowness is clearly intrigued by what he’s seen so far, as he gave Lambert three shifts during an exciting three-on-three overtime session. Lambert nearly won it right off the hop on a terrific solo effort.
“Speed. Skill. Poise with the puck. In open ice, he’s going to make something happen. I love the way that he gets the puck and just goes. For an 18 year old kid, he’s confident with the puck,” said Bowness, who was then asked if he’s potentially working his way into the roster equation.
“Well, we’ll see,” Bowness replied.
Perfetti, Lambert and Dubois were all stopped in the shootout by Stuart Skinner, who turned away 33 of 35 shots during regulation and overtime. Devin Shore was the only one to beat Connor Hellebuyck, who made 25 saves on 27 shots prior to the breakaway contest. Tyler Benson, off a Ville Heinola giveaway in the first period, and Jason Demers, on a third-period five-on-three advantage, had the Oilers tallies in regulation.
It was a parade to the penalty box at times. Winnipeg went 2-for-6, while Edmonton went 1-for-5. There was also bit of bite to the game. Adam Lowry took offence to Benson running Mason Appleton from behind and jumped him, leading to offsetting penalties. Later, Blake Wheeler went after Edmonton rookie Luke Esposito, who had knocked the former Jets captain into his own net and on top of Nate Schmidt, who was shaken up and briefly went to the dressing room.
“I didn’t really love the play,” Wheeler said. “Going into our goalie and Schmidty there, too. I got a little fired up. I felt I went into Bucky and Schmidty. It was not a spot that needed that type of play.”
Perfetti is a lock for Winnipeg’s top six, and looks to start the year on a line with Dubois and Wheeler. Scheifele, Ehlers and Connor look to be the other big trio.
“It’s been really good. Doobie and Wheels are both big such big guys, so smart and so offensively gifted. But they’re also such strong powerful guys, they get on the forecheck and open some space,” Perfetti said of the fit so far.
Winnipeg’s bottom six is a bit more of a mystery. Lowry and Appleton likely start the year together, but who is on the other wing is up for debate. Jansen Harkins played a game in that spot earlier in the preseason, while 28-year-old Finnish forward Saku Maenalanen got a look in that spot Saturday. Harkins was instead on a line with Dominic Toninato and Kevin Stenlund, who are both fighting to earn spots on the opening-night roster. Same with David Gustafsson and Kristian Reichel, who skated with Lambert.
Those involved in the battle for blue-line spots were featured in this one, with Ville Heinola, Logan Stanley and Dylan Samberg all playing along with three fixtures in Brenden Dillon, Neal Pionk and Nate Schmidt. Heinola had a roller-coaster of a game. A first-period giveaway led to a goal, but he also made a great feed to set-up Perfetti’s first tally.
“Now we’re kind of in the back half of camp, you know, tonight a little bit more pop, a little bit more urgency; you are starting to feel a little bit more of the timing down,” said Wheeler. “You are starting to play with some guys you will eventually play with, so that’s really what you’re looking for. Obviously, the last week coming up here and that last game in Calgary will be close to their lineup, close to our lineup, so that’s a game where you start to build off some things.”
The roster situation got a bit more clarity earlier in the day Saturday when the Jets trimmed 16 players.
Forwards Mikey Eyssimont, Jeff Malott, Daniel Torgersson, Henri Nikannen, Chaz Lucius, Alex Limoges, Nick Jones, Cole Maier, Evan Polei and Wyatt Bongiovanni, defencemen Ashton Sautner, Leon Gawanke, Declan Chisholm, Simon Lundmark and Tyrel Bauer, and goaltender Oskari Salminen have all been assigned to the Manitoba Moose Eyssimont, Malott, Sautner and Gawanke must first pass through waivers before they can join the AHL club.
Winnipeg now has 31 skaters left – four goaltenders, 17 forwards and 10 defencemen. They are likely to cut two more goalies (Arvid Holm and Mikhail Berdin), along with four forwards and two defencemen.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.