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Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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Cole Perfetti aced tests on and off the ice this season. The Saginaw Spirit forward finished second in Ontario Hockey League scoring and was also named the Canadian Hockey League's scholastic player of the year thanks to a 93 per cent average. 

​​"Ever since I was little I was told academics come first and if I wasn't excelling in school it would be hard to excel in anything else in life," he said. "But, also, I feel like it's just my competitiveness and the kind of person I am. I want to excel in everything I do. So, that’s just who I am and why I've had success in school."

Perfetti, who plans to become an agent after his playing days, is an analytical kind of guy and his ability to think the game has helped separate him in this year's draft class.

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button gives Perfetti a grade of six out of five for hockey sense. After phase one of the National Hockey League draft lottery, Perfetti sensed that the Detroit Red Wings, who own the fourth-overall pick, may be a likely landing spot.  

"It'd be awesome going to such an historic franchise and putting on the winged wheel," the 18-year-old said. "People are talking about that and things are being said about me going to Detroit and that'd be pretty cool if it happened."

Detroit's senior vice-president and alternate governor Jimmy Devellano is a minority partner of the Spirit and former Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood is also part of the ownership group. No NHL team knows Perfetti better than the Wings, who had a front-row seat for his 111-points-in-61-games campaign. 

"There's a Red Wing scout at every one of our home games," Perfetti pointed out. "They use our home games as a base to see every other team play. I had an opportunity to make my mark and prove to them I should be their pick."

Perfetti has done multiple Zoom sessions with the Wings since the season ended and the comfort level is high, considering the team's director of amateur scouting, Kris Draper, is a family friend. Perfetti played with Draper's son, Kienan, in spring hockey growing up and the Drapers are also tight with the billet family Perfetti has been living with in Saginaw. 

"They were actually at my billets' cottage for the Fourth of July weekend, so they're really close and I've been able to grow closer with the Draper family that way. I've been to some dinners with them and been able to grow that relationship. It's easier when you have someone you're comfortable with running the interview." 

Perfetti, of course, isn't taking anything for granted. Last year, Detroit surprised many by taking German defenceman Moritz Seider sixth overall, so general manager Steve Yzerman isn't afraid to go off the board. 

In Button's latest mock draft, he had Perfetti going to the Anaheim Ducks at No. 6. Meanwhile, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie had Perfetti at No. 5 in his final prospects list, and it's the Ottawa Senators who will be picking in that slot. 

"To be part of the Leafs-Ottawa rivalry that I've been a fan of for so many years would be cool," Perfetti, a native of Whitby, Ont., said. "When they play each other it feels hectic and it's a good rivalry. Playing in the nation's capital would be an honour."

But Perfetti insists he's not getting caught up in draft guessing games. He's not obsessing over every mock draft. 

"You'll see guys going at No. 3 or No. 4 that could also go at No. 8 or No. 9 and it would totally make sense," he said. "That's how deep this draft is and how good these players are, so it's hard to think about it and plan." 

Wherever he ends up, Perfetti is hoping to lay down roots. Last summer, he created a charitable initiative, Fetts' Friends, in Saginaw to support the pediatric centre in the community. 

"We sold game-used jerseys, sticks and auctioned off a bunch of stuff," he said. "A lot of the money went towards a new gaming table that we put in for the kids at the hospital. Essentially, it's just a giant iPad and kids can play with it. The goal was to allow the kids to get their minds off of being in the hospital and have some kind of fun while they're there and be kids for a bit, because they’re going through a lot."

Perfetti is a student of the game, but isn't one of those players who is focused only on hockey. His favourite course in school this year was World Issues with a lot of talk about the COVID-19 pandemic. And Perfetti has done his part to help the front-line workers in Saginaw by raising money to buy them meals. 

"It's something I'll carry with me wherever I go," Perfetti says of his charity work. "My entire life I've always wanted to make a difference."