Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the name Francis Perron. There’s a chance, however, you can’t quite put your finger on the reason why. So, how about a refresher?
It was in mid-September that the NHL was shaken by a blockbuster deal between the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks. As part of a whopping ten-asset trade, the Sharks sent NHLers Dylan DeMelo and Chris Tierney, prospects Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris and four condition-laden draft picks, which potentially includes three first-round selections, to the Senators in exchange for Ottawa captain, two-time Norris Trophy winner and all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson and, you guessed it, Perron.
“I had no idea I was going to get traded, no idea I was even in the rumors or whatever,” Perron said. “So, (Senators GM Pierre Dorion) called me and I was not expecting it. He told me it wasn’t because he didn’t like me or because the team didn’t want me to play with the Senators, it was just that those trades happen. I feel like the Sharks adding me to the trade meant they wanted me. I felt really good about that.”
Good feelings or not, the trade put Perron in some personally uncharted territory. The 22-year-old had never been traded before. He spent his entire QMJHL career with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, captaining them during his final season in 2015-16, and he had been a member of the Senators’ organization from the moment the team drafted him in the seventh-round, 190th overall, in 2014. That includes two seasons spent in the AHL with the baby Senators, where he played in the organization’s final season in Binghamton and first in Belleville.
“It was weird, because I had been with the organization for a while and I had played there two years, so I had been making some friends there,” Perron said. “It was tough at first. But I also felt that for me, personally, I needed a fresh start and it wasn’t going my way the last two years. I was happy, to be honest.”
To say it hadn’t been going Perron’s way, though, might be an understatement.
Throughout his time in major junior, particularly his final two seasons as a QMJHL veteran, Perron was relied upon as an offensive spark plug. During the 2014-15 campaign, he scored 29 goals and 76 points. He followed that up with an outstanding 41-goal, 108-point season, capped off with a QMJHL crown as well as regular season and post-season MVP honors, the latter coming on the heels of a 12-goal, 33-point performance in 18 games. It was his 2015-16 play that led to a three-year entry-level deal with the Senators.
Unfortunately, the AHL was a different beast entirely for Perron, who struggled to find much consistency at the professional level. In his first season, he scored six goals and 26 points, a decent performance for a rookie in the AHL. His sophomore season was far more trying, however, and his four-goal, 15-point output in 44 games left much to be desired. The good news for Perron is that the trade to San Jose, where he’s playing for the Sharks’ affiliate, the Barracuda, not only gave him additional motivation to prove his worth but the opportunity to do so.
“In the last two years, I haven’t really had an offensive role and I knew that when I got traded, the staff with the Barracuda, (Sharks assistant GM and Barracuda GM) Joe Will, told me right away that they wanted to give me a chance,” Perron said. “That motivated me to be ready and to show them that I can be an offensive guy in the AHL to start the year. That’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
It’s certainly working, too. Through his first five games with the Barracuda, Perron has been an offensive force, scoring four goals and eight points in five games, totals that not only lead San Jose but put him a single point off of the league scoring lead in the early going. Perron admits that as a third-year AHLer, there’s an additional comfort level in the league, a better understanding of what he needs to do to be successful, but that doesn’t take away in the least from his impressive start.
The rest of this campaign will be about maintaining for Perron, about continuing to prove night in and night out that he can contribute and that there’s untapped offense yet from which the Barracuda can benefit. He’ll also hope to turn some heads with the big club — shouldn't be too hard if he keeps scoring at this rate — and the Sharks will be able to keep a watchful eye on him with the NHL and AHL teams sharing a home rink. And when it comes to being the “other guy” in the Karlsson trade, Perron won't let that bother him for a second.
“We all know how good Karlsson is and how big he is as a player in the league. He’s one of the best defensemen in the league. Obviously, no one was talking about me,” Perron said. “But it’s nice for me, as well. I’m under the radar and if I do well, it’s going to be a surprise. They’re going to say, ‘Wow, we got him in that trade, too, and it worked out pretty well.’”