CALGARY – St. Louis Blues forward David Perron leaned up against the boards after practice to chat with Calgary Hitmen defenceman Karl Alzner at the Pengrowth Saddleome on Tuesday.
Whether those two will be teammates again next week will be determined over the next few days as the Blues decide if they should keep the 19-year-old Perron in the NHL or make him available for the Canadian junior team’s selection camp starting Monday in Calgary.
Perron was to be a healthy scratch in Tuesday’s game against the Flames, which would make it the fourth game in a row he’d watch from the press box.
“The team is winning and everybody is playing well, so I’m all right with that,” Perron said. “I’m going to have my chance.”
The chance to play for Canada in the world junior championship is something every junior player desires.
Perron may be junior-aged, but he’s an NHL player now and is loathe to leave a lifestyle superior to junior hockey in accommodation, transportation and paycheque.
And in some cases, the Canadian junior team has been a stop on the way out of the NHL and back to the junior leagues once the tournament is over.
“I’m hoping to stay,” Perron said. “When you are a junior, obviously you want to go to (the world junior championship).
“Now that I’m here I’d rather stay, but it’s going to be a coach’s decision. If I go, it’s going to be a great experience. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.
“In the next few days, I’ll get my mind set to either win the gold medal or the Stanley Cup.”
The left-winger from Sherbrooke, Que., has five goals and three assists in 14 games for St. Louis, including a two-goal game versus Detroit on Nov. 13.
Perron was even or plus in plus-minus in 13 of those games and averaged about 12 minutes a game up until Nov. 25, which was the last time he dressed for a game.
Hockey Canada asks NHL teams to make a decision on their junior-eligible players before selection camp starts because adding them to the Canadian team after it has been chosen would be disruptive to chemistry.
Of the six NHL clubs with Canadian teens in their lineup, only the Blues and Edmonton Oilers, who have 18-year-old centre Sam Gagner, have left open the possibility of giving their player to the Canadian team Monday.
The Blues are in Edmonton on Friday and host the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
“It’ll depend on how our team looks at the time,” said Blues president of hockey operations John Davidson. “Whether or not we think he can play for us and help us, or would it be a better situation for him to play for the Canadians at the world junior?
“Right now, he’s a Blue.”
Perron is a hockey late-bloomer as he was playing Tier 2 hockey in Quebec two years ago.
He was passed over in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft twice before the Lewiston Mainieacs took him and he was also ignored in the NHL entry draft the first year he was eligible.
But Perron was a standout for Lewiston in his first year in the QMJHL last season and helped them to a league championship. The Blues drafted him in the first round (26th overall) in June.
Perron was Alzner’s teammate in Canada’s eight-game Super Series against Russia in July and August. Perron gained valuable international hockey experience as it was his first time wearing the Maple Leaf.
The six-foot, 180-pound forward had two goals and five assists in seven games in the series.
Perron excels at cycling the puck deep in the offensive zone with his skills and smarts and he protects the puck well.
Davidson says Perron is a better player than he was Sept. 1, and his few weeks of NHL experience would make him an asset to a Canadian team chasing a fourth straight gold medal.
But the Blues were on the fence Tuesday about his immediate future.
Whether he plays in the next two games or not could be indicator of their plans for Perron, but Davidson wasn’t apologizing for Perron’s lack of playing time recently.
“If anybody out there thinks the Blues are not doing the right thing by having him here, they’re dead wrong,” he declared. “We’re doing the right thing for David, to make sure he’s a very important part of our future.
“We’re keeping him because there’s more to life than playing NHL games. There’s conditioning, nutrition and we have a full-time strength and conditioning coach who works with him every day. He’s put on seven or eight pounds since the start of the season. He’s learned to eat properly.
“The whole idea was to get him into approximately 55 games, which is certainly something we could do without question.”