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Prospect Need to Know: Cole Perfetti is the kid you want on your line

Even with some early bad puck luck this year, the Saginaw Spirit star has been racking up points and making a statement by earning an invite to Canada's world junior camp. Meet him and 10 other 2020 NHL draft prospects on the rise right now.

Last year, left winger Cole Perfetti burst onto the scene with a 37-goal rookie campaign for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit. He followed that up with a great performance for Canada at the summer Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, so expectations were high heading into this season, which is also his NHL draft year. Then, the pings began.

“I think in the first seven games I hit 14 posts and crossbars combined,” Perfetti said. “It was tough going through that; I wasn’t producing and it was tough on the mental side of the game. I was changing sticks up, how I came to the rink, changing my routine and it opened up for a bit. But my teammates are scoring when I put the puck on their stick.”

Indeed they are. Perfetti is averaging more than an assist per game right now and the goals are beginning to come to, with 13 tallies and 42 points in 26 games. His solid play at the CHL-Russia series helped earn him a spot on Canada’s world junior camp roster and while the youngster won’t be favored to nab a slot, it will be a great experience for a player who could be a centerpiece on next year’s entry.

Back in Saginaw, Perfetti has been a linchpin since last season, when a very good team got better by acquiring NHL draft prospects Owen Tippett and Ryan McLeod in two separate deals with Mississauga. And it didn’t take long for the new guys to ask for Perfetti on their line.

“It was an honor for guys with that talent to come in and say they wanted to play with me,” Perfetti said. “They didn’t say it right away, but I earned their trust and proved to them that I could keep up. By the end of the year, we were dominating. They’re great guys and I still keep in touch with them.”

And the adulation goes both ways.

“You play against him and see a kid with that talent, you want to play with him,” said Tippett, now with AHL Springfield. “It’s the way he sees the ice. Everything from little passes, to little smart plays to the way his stick is positioned. And obviously his shot speaks for itself. He’s a special player.”

So Perfetti has a lot going for him. Still, the dynamic left winger does want to keep drilling down on one specific part of his game: his explosiveness.

“I’m not naturally quick, but I’ve definitely been improving on my lower-body strength,” Perfetti said. “I’ve been seeing sprinting coaches and my trainer in the summer is doing a heck of a job helping me with my first three steps. Once I get that jump in me, it’s gonna be really good.”

Given what he has already accomplished, that may be an understatement.

Here are 10 more 2020 draft prospects making noise right now.

Sean Farrell, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL): Now the top scorer in the league with 30 points, Farrell is a dynamic offensive threat with great vision and playmaking ability. He needs to get stronger, but at least the Harvard commit is willing to battle.

Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL): With six points in his past two games, Perreault is really heating up. The son of former NHLer Yanic Perreault has a quick shot and is a very quick skater.

Jake Ratzlaff, D, Rosemount Irish (Minn. HS): Big, mobile and steady. The captain of the Irish is a right shot who plays on a sick tandem with fellow 2020 draft prospect Mason Wheeler. Ratzlaff is a University of Minnesota commit.

Vasili Ponomarev, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Oftentimes imports need time to adjust and it seems like Ponomarev has found his groove with five points in his past three games. Strong on his skates and very skilled, he’ll play for Russia at the World Jr. A Challenge.

Kirill Steklov, D, London Knights (OHL): Another Russian headed for the WJAC, the 6-foot-4 Steklov has great reach and moves really well. Needs to work on his puckhandling skills, which should improve as he gets more used to playing on smaller ice.

Dylan Garand, G, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): Garand has surrendered just two goals total in his past two starts, helping the Blazers starter climb the goalie leaderboard in the ‘Dub.’ He’s rocking a .924 save percentage and 2.26 goals-against average.

Michael Benning, D, Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL): Currently rocking a 13-game point streak, Benning is the top-scoring blueliner in the league with 40 points in 27 games. The University of Denver commit boasts excellent hockey IQ and offensive instincts.

Theodor Niederbach, C, Frolunda (Swe.): The talented center is getting a meaty role on Frolunda’s junior squad and he’s been hot of late with five points in his past three games. He’s up to 27 points in 24 games for the season.

Carson Bantle, LW, Madison Capitols (USHL): One of the most pleasant surprises of the season so far, Bantle has been a machine for the Caps with 24 points in 21 games. The Michigan Tech commit brings a 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame and great puck protection skills to the ice.

William Villeneuve, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): The Dogs are going through some turmoil right now but they’ve got a nice cast of youngsters, including Villeneuve. The righty has a great shot and is up to 25 points in 29 games, already surpassing his totals from all of last year.

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