It took a lot longer than I thought it would but I am finally here to deliver on what I promised earlier in the summer, a Gabe Perreault scouting report. I have spent the past month and a half watching and clipping NTDP games from last season, taking detailed notes on the performances of Perreault (and a little Drew Fortescue). The goal was to provide informed thoughts on the new crown jewel of the prospect pool, and I also thought it would be fun to learn a new skill.
The process to bring a detailed Gabe Perreault scouting report wasn’t complicated, but it required a decent amount of work. I bought a month-long subscription to USA Hockey TV, which took over the NTDP’s USHL and NCAA streaming rights about halfway through last season. There were a little over 10 games on demand available on the platform, so I looked through the game logs to see if I could re-watch performances that hit on a few key points.
I wanted to watch at least one game where Perreault would not be on a line with Ryan Leonard and Will Smith, so I made sure to select a game that took place during the U20 WJC Camp. I wanted to watch a couple of his games against college opposition, so I chose his games against D1 programs Mercyhurst and Lindenwood. Finally, I wanted to watch games at multiple points in the season to see if I noticed progression, particularly with his skating. For that reason, I chose games in December, January, and the end of February.
I am also an avid U20 Team USA fan. As a lover of best-on-best International soccer tournaments, I think it’s a joke that we do not have best-on-best tournaments for the men’s game, and the U20 WJC is a great way to get my fill with that style of hockey. For that reason, I also watched the entirety of Perreault’s World Junior Summer Showcase performance. I was not able to clip every game from the showcase, but a couple of them are included in the reel I created.
During each game, I took notes on significant plays and other trends I was noticing during Perreault’s shifts. I will elaborate on the things I saw shortly, but I highly encourage you to watch the video I put together from my viewings. I have to warn you that it is my first time doing something like this and the production quality frankly sucks – I couldn’t get my laptop to capture sound – but I am going to improve and will clip every game I can watch while he is at Boston College this season. Put your favorite highlight reel song on in the background too. Now lets jump into the key things I noticed while watching Perreault.
Let’s get this one out of the way immediately. For those who don’t know, Perreault played on arguably the NTDP’s best line ever with Will Smith and Ryan Leonard. Smith is an extremely skilled, shifty player who has the puck on his stick in high volumes. Leonard is very skilled but is a bull of a forward and is an extremely high-motor player. In comparison, Perreault does not look as fast.
That being said, I actually think that Perreault’s skating mechanics are sound. He isn’t knock-kneed, and his stride is pretty fluid. I never noticed him struggling with the pace of players like Smith or even Oliver Moore, and there were several times where his straight-line speed caused issues in transition. Overall, I have seen some bad skaters in the junior ranks and I don’t think Perreault should be counted among them.
Perreault is not going to push the pace of a game but he can easily keep up with faster linemates and showcased impressive bursts of speed frequently. I would grade him as average in this respect, and I can see how adding lower body strength creates a clear pathway to him eliminating this concern.
Defensive play and Compete
This was the aspect of Perreault’s game that surprised me the most. He will definitely need to continue getting stronger while at Boston College – and this is why I love the NCAA route for most prospects – but he is well above average at winning battles along the boards due to his ability to use his stick correctly. I regularly watched him win 50/50 puck battles in both the offensive and defensive zone, and he often was able to create a sustained possession immediately following the win.
I also noticed that Perreault was regularly the first backchecker on his line, and would even cover for the centerman down low in the defensive zone if needed. Muse seemed to play an aggressive system on the forecheck, but again, Perreault regularly disrupted play in the offensive zone using his stick. I was really impressed because I think given the point totals the assumption would be that he was not doing much of the dirty work, but in my viewings he pulled his weight.
Unless his skating really takes off, I do not see him getting penalty-killing minutes at the next level. That being said, he did kill penalties in several of the games I watched and he even ended up with a few breakaways. Again, overall I was surprised by how much his compete and defensive effort stood out. I am not saying he will be Datsyuk, but I don’t think he is going to be some liability.
Offensive Creation Style
I touched on this before, but on that line I found Will Smith to be the high volume, lots of puck touches forward, and I found Leonard to be the bull in a china shop style forward. I didn’t watch any of the games and see Perreault skating in circles around people like Smith, but what I did see was a player who maximized his puck touches.
I regularly noted instances where I found Smith could be wasteful with the puck, whereas I often noted that when Perreault touched the puck, something good was going to happen and he was constantly able to find the highest percentage play.
He is a clear threat in transition, as he is able to stick handle and pass the puck through the defender’s triangle on the rush. He knows how to make himself a support option in transition; I think you often see elite passers know how to make themselves available and Perreault is excellent at this. He is rarely wasteful on these transition plays and I see this as a big source of potential offense at the next level.
On the powerplay, he is a clear threat and I can see him quarterbacking a unit at the NHL level. He is incredibly calm with the puck on his stick, is patient, and has a pretty good shot to go with his passing skill set. I saw him play a net-front role a couple of times, and while I do not think it is the role he will ultimately settle into, he was tenacious and scored a couple of deflections and rebounds.
When running the powerplay, he is able to pull off all kinds of ridiculous passes that even his teammates are not ready for. This is a player who broke the NTDP scoring record, and I left several games noting “he should have had two or three more points but teammates missed wide-open nets.”
As I said, Perreault often makes the correct play when he touches the puck and that can lead to some really long shifts of sustained offensive possession at 5v5. There were several shifts at 5v5 where it looked like he was running a powerplay, with him often setting up shop supporting the defensemen higher in the defensive zone where he could pick out his teammates with cross-ice passes. It will be interesting to see if that ability to dominate shifts in possession continues at the NCAA level.
Perreault isn’t going to wow you with the pure speed of his hands like Will Smith will, but he is constantly able to pull off highly technical dekes that have a similar effect on the game. His small-area stick skills are really impressive, and his skill level helps him win board battles against bigger opponents consistently.
What I like most about Perreault’s skill level is that he is able to use his skill level to get the puck to teammates in really creative ways, it’s not like he is stickhandling just for the sake of it. I have watched him pull off the Patrick Kane spino-rama assist move (you’ll see this in the video). Essentially, he will use his puck skills to purposefully change the angle of a pass and he is usually able to do it successfully. That is a huge skill to have and given the consistency with which he is able to execute it I see it translating to the NHL.
The final interesting way he is able to use his quick reflexes and stick skills is in the faceoff dot. If there was an offensive draw on the left side of the ice, Will Smith would yield the center spot to Perreault, and Perreault was a prolific faceoff winner in the games I watched. I did not notice Ryan Leonard (who is a righty) do the same thing on the right side of the ice.
No, this does not mean Perreault is a potential center, but winning faceoffs is an important skill to have, as Rangers fans know all too well. I also think Rangers fans will be happy to hear that I watched him play both LW and RW, so he can play either.
One of the main questions fans would ask about the NTDP’s best line ever is, “Who was driving the play?” I won’t lie, I come away from these viewings with the same opinion I had before; that Will Smith is the top prospect of the three and the best outright play driver. But in terms of being a quality offensive creator, I think Perreault is right there with Smith just due to the consistent quality of his shot-creation ability. To that point, I certainly don’t think Perreault’s point production was due to riding shotgun on that line as he created a ton of chances both when Smith and Leonard were at WJC Camp, and when Muse chose to mix the lines.
I do think that Perreault could stand to play with a bit more pace and assert himself in the game more often – there were definitely shifts where he was not overly involved. But even if you didn’t notice Perreault for a couple shifts, the next time he touched the puck it would almost immediately come close to ending up in the opponent’s net.
While I believe that Perreault’s statistics will lean more heavily on assists than goals, I was impressed by his ability to pick corners through traffic and I could see 25-30 goal upside. But the tantalizing upside in Perreault’s game comes from his borderline elite playmaking ability and skill level combination. He can execute difficult passes through traffic at an incredibly high rate, and he will be a significant weapon on the powerplay in the NHL.
Overall, I come away from these viewings with the belief that Perreault has clear top-of-the-lineup upside. He definitely needs the two years at BC that I suspected he would need when he was drafted, but I cannot wait to see what he does there (the first game is October 7th against Quinnipiac).