2020 NHL Entry Draft Prospect Profile: Jacob Perreault

If an NHL team is willing to be patient, the Sarnia Sting sniper could be a special player one day.

Name: Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia Sting (OHL)

Position: Right wing

Stats: 57 games played, 39 goals, 31 assists, 70 points, 40 PIMs, -34 plus/minus rating

NHL Central Scouting ranking: 17th (North American skaters)

Comparable NHL player: Jordan Eberle

When it comes to scouting, at the very base of it, the number one aim of the discipline is analyzing what the good parts and bad parts of a prospect’s game are.

However, another incredibly important part of the equation is projecting whether the good parts of a player’s game are going to remain good and whether the bad parts of a player’s game are going to be improved, refined or fixed through development.

Following along this line of thinking, Sarnia Sting winger Jacob Perreault is one of the more interesting prospects available heading into the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

First, let’s look at the good, and with Perreault there’s a lot of good. The son of former NHL player Yanic Perreault, Jacob is one of those guys who is always a dangerous scoring threat in the offensive zone. His offensive toolkit is quite well-rounded. He has that innate scoring vision, allowing him to think the game ahead of his opponents and find the quiet areas of the ice for himself and his teammates. His shot is hard and accurate, including his laser-beam of a one-timer, and he can score from pretty much anywhere in the offensive zone; he’s a skilled playmaker who can make difficult passes, including at full speed and off his backhand; and he has the hands and the puck control to maintain possession for his team and beat defenders one-on-one.

Perreault also has that killer instinct that most NHL scorers have, but not all skilled younger prospects do. When you watch him play it’s very clear that he wants to be “the guy” on offense, that he’s comfortable taking matters into his own hands and that he gets a real rush when he’s able to inflict some scoring damage. He can push the pace and really put enemy defenders on their heels when they’re trying to contain him.

When you put the whole offensive package together, it should come as no surprise that Perreault has one of the best highlight packages of all 2020 prospects.

The most peculiar part of Perreault’s game, though, is definitely his skating, and let me explain why. I had watched him a few times earlier in the season and came away disappointed with how he was getting around the ice. He wasn’t getting great extension in his stride, he wasn’t generating a lot of power, he wasn’t beating defenders wide. Simply put, I just didn’t think that his skating was much of a strength for him.

So it came much to my surprise when Perreault blew away most of his peers in the skating drills prior to the 2020 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. He finished 1st in the 30M Forward Skate, 30M Forward Skate with Puck and Weave Agility with Puck, and finished 2nd overall for the on-ice testing evaluations.

Realizing that I needed to get a better understanding of what was going on, I went back and watched more of his games. Lo and behold, I saw instances of his skating being much better than before — although I also saw more examples of stuff that I didn’t like.

Which brings me to the downsides to Perreault’s game as of right now. On a shift-by-shift basis, he’s not exactly consistent. This is especially true on the defensive side of the puck, as he can look slow, passive, or even flat-out disinterested at times. He’s probably never going to be a guy who plays any kind of meaningful role on the penalty kill or as a shutdown forward. He’s also a little undersized at roughly 5-foot-11, so he can get outworked in physical battles.

However, to go back to how I kicked off this article, I’m still very high on Perreault’s long-term upside because I believe that the good parts of his game are going to keep improving, while some of his big weaknesses can be fixed over time.

Perreault strikes me as one of those prospects who is used to being better than his peers, and you could probably look to his NHL bloodlines as a potential reason why. Sometimes you get these kinds of guys who are just so good at such a young age that they can coast a little on their skill without having to put in quite as much work or effort as others do. That’s fine for peewee and bantam levels of hockey, but starts to show itself a little more at a level like the OHL when competition ramps up.

I’m wary about discussing this sort of thing about a player when I don’t have good intel about their off-ice work habits, but Perreault also looks like a guy whose strength and conditioning aren’t quite up to snuff yet. He’ll start to fade a little more than most toward the end of games and the end of shifts, which could explain why he’ll look slow or lack explosiveness at times. Though, also played a lot of minutes this past season for Sarnia as one of their best players, so maybe he was getting gassed on a regular basis or trying to conserve his energy. It also didn’t help that the Sting were a pretty bad team that often found themselves badly outmatched and practically out of games by the second period.

They key to all of this, though, is what I mentioned above about him having a killer instinct and chasing the rush of scoring. At some point in time — maybe as soon as he reaches the AHL, maybe not until the NHL — he’s no longer going to be able to coast on his skill alone, and because he’s a smart player he’ll realize that he needs to put in more work if he wants to continue being an offensive dynamo. And because he so badly wants to be an offensive dynamo, I think he’s going to put in that work.

I’d bet good money on Perreault being a guy who overcomes some of his weaknesses over time as he develops, which is not something I would say about all prospects. And when you factor that in with the impressive level of talent that he already has, the end result could be a pretty special player. His defensive game probably won’t improve much, and he’ll ultimately still be a one-dimensional offensive winger, but he could be so good in that dimension — think 60-70 points per NHL season — that it won’t really matter. Let him do the scoring and let his teammates take care of the ice behind him.

He might not be widely ranked as highly as other forwards such as Dawson Mercer, Rodion Amirov, Connor Zary or Noel Gunler, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up becoming the best player out of the bunch. This is a player worth keeping an eye on moving forward.