Sting sharpshooter Perreault sets sights on NHL draft

The NHL draft Tuesday is no longer being held in Montreal, but Jacob Perreault won’t be far from there.

Sarnia Sting's Jacob Perreault (44) protects the puck from Oshawa Generals' Ty Tullio (71) in the second period at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Sarnia Observer

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The NHL draft Tuesday is no longer being held in Montreal, but Jacob Perreault won’t be far from there.

The Sarnia Sting right-winger will gather with his family one hour outside the city at their home in Magog, Que.

The NHL’s decision to hold a virtual draft because of the COVID-19 pandemic means Perreault won’t get to hear his name called at the Bell Centre.

“It would have been pretty special, especially in my hometown,” he said. “Obviously with all this going on, it’s going to be different, but I still think it’s going to be a special moment.”

Perreault, 18, is projected in several mock drafts to be chosen in the bottom half of the first round.

Like many young players, he’s dreamed of walking onto the stage on draft night, pulling on his new jersey and posing for photos with front-office brass. But that can’t happen this year.

“It’s just about accepting some changes and still enjoying the moment because it’s still going to be a big day and a big part of my hockey career,” he said. “I’m really excited for it and looking forward to it even if it’s online.”

Rounds 2 to 7 will be held Wednesday.

The five-foot-11, 192-pound Perreault is widely considered one of the top shooters in this year’s draft class after posting two straight 30-goal seasons.

He set career-highs in 2019-20 with 39 goals and 31 assists in 57 games.

He was 17th in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters.

“He’s got a lot of offensive ability, has an excellent shot,” ex-Sting forward Joey Tenute of NHL Central Scouting said to “He’s got a goal scorer’s mentality, skates well, is creative with the puck and can make plays at top speed. He’s got a lot of upside.”

Sarnia Sting’s Jacob Perreault (44) plays against the Saginaw Spirit at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

Perreault returned to Magog a few weeks ago after spending most of the summer at his family’s other home in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Ill.

He spent his quarantine period in Quebec working out at the training facility set up in the house by his father, ex-NHLer Yanic Perreault, who’s now the Chicago Blackhawks’ development coach.

Other than those two weeks, he’s been on the ice almost every day.

He’s been in the gym, too. And he’s been doing skill work – honing his shot and his faceoff game – with his dad in their basement.

“I was getting stronger physically, getting more conditioning (and) endurance,” he said. “I think it was a summer I really transformed my game.

“For this upcoming year I want to be a dominant player in both ends of the ice. I want to improve my game, keep adding those small things to my game and be the best player I could be.”

Perreault has done pre-draft interviews with pretty much every NHL team. They want to see more consistency from him.

He said fatigue led to his inconsistent play.

“A lot of times I was trying to do too much or I was taking longer shifts,” he said. “But now I understand that go shorter, but go harder. When you’re tired, change. Get someone fresh out there. That’s what’s best for the team.”

Perreault doesn’t need to look far to find a player who transformed his game.

His father scored 87 goals as a 19-year-old in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but he played parts of 14 seasons in the NHL by becoming a solid two-way centre and one of the league’s premier faceoff men.

“Obviously he kept his offensive game, but at the same time he added his defensive game and he added his faceoff game,” Perreault said. “He kept adding new dimensions as it went on.

“I think a lot of people were questioning his skating when he first came into the league. I think by the end of his career in the NHL his skating was really improved and he was a pretty good skater even if people said he didn’t look too fast. I think it was deceptive, just like mine.

“Some people say my skating is going to hurt me, but I think it’s mostly deceptive. I’m more powerful, I’m faster than I look. I use that to my advantage as well when the D gets a bad gap because he thinks I’m going slower than I actually am.”

Perreault showed his skating and puck-handling skills at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game combine in January. He placed second overall in the on-ice testing.

After watching and learning from his dad for years, he takes pride in his playmaking.

“I understand the game really well,” he said. “I can move the puck around. I can either take the shot, pass the puck backdoor, or try to freeze the goalie as much as I can, or take the pass and shoot it if I’m in a shooting position.”

Perreault is best known for that shot. He fine-tuned it by firing pucks at a shooting tarp in his basement almost every day for 10 years.

He was down there with his father, brothers Jeremy and Gabriel, and sister Liliane.

Jeremy, 21, played in the U.S. Premier Hockey League. Liliane, 19, is a junior on the Mercyhurst University hockey team.

Youngest brother Gabriel, 15, plays for the Chicago Mission and is in his draft season. He may be the best of the bunch, Jacob said.

“He’s going to be a top prospect, for sure, in the junior draft,” he said. “I think once his NHL draft comes, he’s going to be one of the top prospects as well. I think he has a chance of becoming better than I am.”