Long road leads Per­lini to Hawks

De­voted to de­vel­op­ing skills as a young­ster in Eng­land and Canada

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By Jimmy Green­field jgreen­[email protected]­bune.com Twit­ter @jc­greenx

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.”

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