Long road leads Perlini to Hawks
Devoted to developing skills as a youngster in England and Canada
WINNIPEG, Manitoba— Kids who grow up playing hockey in Chicago will travel all over the Midwest in search of the best competition.
That’s similar to howitwas for Brendan Perlini during his childhood in England, albeit with a few slight differences.
Instead of going toWisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, the Blackhawks’ new forward — acquired this week in a trade that sent Nick Schmaltz to the Coyotes— would jump in the car with his family and head to rinks all over Europe.
“We would drive 20 minutes to Dover, hop on a ferry and be in France,” Perlini said. “To do all that traveling from a young age, see so much, it was awesome. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”
It was possible because Fred Perlini, Brendan’s father, played professional hockey in England from 1986 to ’97 after an eight- game NHL career with the Maple Leafs. Fred grew up in Canada, but instead of returning with his family when he retired as a player, they remained in England, where he worked for another 10 years as a coach and administrator.
That’s where Perlini was born and where he and his brother, Brett, learned to play the game. Despite facing international competition, England wasn’t exactly a hockey hotbed. So when the family moved to Canada whenBrendanwas 11, the hockey part came as a shock.
“When I moved there it was like, holy cow, these guys are unbelievable,” he said. “When you’re playing and practicing with them every day, you get much better as a kid.”
After a few years, the family relocated again, this time to the Detroit area in order to be closer to Michigan State, where Brett was playing. That allowed Brendan to join a remarkable youth team that included fellow future first-round picks Dylan Larkin, Kyle Connor and ZachWerenski.
“It’s pretty neat,” said Perlini, who was drafted 12th by the Coyotes in 2014. “We’re all playing against each other now.”
Perlini, 22, made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season and scored 14 goals as a rookie and 17 last season. But afteronly two goals in 22gamesthis season, the Coyotes shipped him and center Dylan Strome to the Hawks for Schmaltz in a deal designed to give all three players a fresh start.
The 6-foot-3 left wing is blessed with speed and size, but Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton would like him to play with more energy.
“You can see he’s got some physical gifts,” Colliton said. “Big body, skates extremely well, big shot. You’ve just got to get him to rampup the RPMs a little bit.”
Perlini is grateful to the Coyotes for giving him his start in the NHL, but he already has moved on.
“Things were good there, but (getting traded) is a chance to improve,” Perlini said. “Learn from (Patrick) Kane and (Jonathan) Toews. They’ve done it all, and that’s where I want to get to. Not just (be) here to be here. You want to get involved and be one of the good players.”