For one magical stretch in March last season, it appeared left winger Brendan Perlini had found a new long-term home. He delivered eight goals in seven-game stretch from March 2 to 16. That included a hat trick and NHL second star of the week honors.
Perlini had joined the Chicago Blackhawks earlier that season along with Dylan Strome in the trade that sent Nick Schmaltz to the Arizona Coyotes. We all know about the Dylan Strome redemption story but, last March, it appeared Perlini was part of it, too. He, like Strome, was a slow-developing first-round pick, and Perlini had solidified a spot on a dynamic second line with Strome and Alex DeBrincat.
Perlini ended up with a respectable 12 goals in his first 46 games as a Hawk, good for a 21-goal pace. Not half bad for a 22-year-old. Chicago had tapped into the goal-scoring ability Perlini showed in major junior. He petered out late in the season and was a healthy scratch at times, but it still felt like a no-brainer to extend his contract for one year at just $874,125.
Now Perlini’s resurgence feels a million miles away. It just didn’t happen in 2019-20. He never got off to the start he needed, spending nine of Chicago’s first 10 games in the press box. The off-season acquisitions of Andrew Shaw and Alexander Nylander added competition in the top nine, and 18-year-old Kirby Dach, the 2019 draft’s third overall pick, joined the fray after recovering from a concussion. Perlini, 23, suddenly wasn’t part of the team’s long-term plans, and when word leaked last week he and agent Darren Ferris were exploring potential trade options, Perlini didn’t deny it. He simply wanted to land in a spot where he could spread his wings and build on last year.
He got his wish Monday. The Detroit Red Wings acquired him for defenseman Alec Regula, whom they picked 67th overall in the 2018 draft.
The landing spot looks pretty much ideal for Perlini. The fact Detroit was willing to ship off one of its recent third-round picks, a 6-foot-4 defenseman averaging more than a point per game in the OHL, tells us it intends to put Perlini to work. Don’t expect to see him in the Little Caesars Arena press box any time soon.
We know the Red Wings slow-play their prospects and that they are gradually amassing a significant number of them. Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen are among their young forwards marinating in the AHL. Rather than rush any of them up, GM Steve Yzerman can now deploy a still-relatively-young forward who is firmly established as an NHLer. Perlini might be a stopgap, but he’s a stopgap with some upside in his stick. Per naturalstattrick.com, from 2016-17 through 2018-19, 414 NHL forwards logged at least 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5. Among them, Perlini ranked 86th in goals per 60 minutes (between Erik Haula and Anthony Mantha), 109th in individual shot attempts per 60 and 135th in individual scoring chances per 60. That easily places Perlini as a middle-six forward on a per-minute basis. So he has a legitimate chance to help a Detroit team seriously lacking talent while it waits for the kids to develop. As a bonus: Perlini played with Red Wings star center Dylan Larkin in Bantam with Belle Tire. Maybe coach Jeff Blashill gives them a shot together.
As for the Hawks: trading their 2017 first-rounder Henri Jokiharju to get Nylander reduced their defense surplus, so it makes sense to beef it back up with a promising youngster. And guess who Regula played with in OHL London last season? None other than Adam Boqvist, Chicago’s No. 1 defense prospect, who has since graduated to AHL Rockford. Perhaps the Blackhawks will give that pair another try once Regula goes pro. He has an intriguing blend of size, mobility and experience playing with high-end partners, as he has also teamed with Edmonton Oilers first-rounder Evan Bouchard in the past.
It’s a small and simple trade but a sensible one. It should benefit both teams in the long run.
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