Per­ron cherry on cake of Karls­son deal

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Paul Gackle [email protected]­yare­anews­group.com

SAN JOSE » As Sharks Ter­ri­tory lost its col­lec­tive mind over the news that Erik Karls­son was com­ing to town, Timo Meier saw an ex­tra cherry in the eight-piece trade with the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors.

In ad­di­tion to Karls­son, the Sharks ac­quired mi­nor league for­ward Fran­cis Per­ron, Meier’s ju­nior hockey line­mate. Meier told his team­mates to “watch out” for the 22-year- old for­ward. So far, Per­ron is liv­ing up to billing, lead­ing the Sharks’ mi­nor- league af­fil­i­ate in scor­ing with 28 points in 27 games and earn­ing an in­vi­ta­tion to the AHL All Star Clas­sic, which will be played in Spring­field, Mass. on Jan. 28.

“All the guys were ob­vi­ously talk­ing about Karls­son,” Meier said. “I told them, ‘ The other guy we got isn’t a bad player ei­ther. Watch out for this guy.’ I’m ex­cited he’s get­ting a chance to show what he’s ca­pa­ble of.”

After com­plet­ing his ju­nior hockey ca­reer by mak­ing a run to the Memo­rial Cup with Meier and the Rouyn-No­randa Huskies in 2015-16, Per­ron joined the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors farm sys­tem and his ca­reer took a quick nose­dive. As a sev­enth-round pick (2014), Per­ron got stuffed into the depth of the Bing­ham­ton Sen­a­tors ros­ter, see­ing most of his ice time on the vet­eran team’s third and fourth lines.

In 112 games in the Sen­a­tors orga--

niza­tion, Per­ron pro­duced just 41 points, post­ing a mi­nus-19 rat­ing.

But the Sharks saw po­ten­tial in the 6-foot, 178-pound for­ward’s speed and high­end skill. They wanted him in­cluded in the Karls­son trade to bal­ance a deal that sent Chris Tier­ney, Dy­lan DeMelo, Josh Nor­ris, Ru­dolfs Bal­cers and a pair of high-end draft picks to Ot­tawa.

“He’s got the skillset that fits with how the game is played to­day,” gen­eral man­ager Doug Wil­son said.

Per­ron em­braced the op­por­tu­nity for a “fresh start” when he learned he would be ac­com­pa­ny­ing Karls­son to San Jose.

“I thought it was prob­a­bly good for me to have a change,” Per­ron said. “I knew that no one was go­ing to talk about me, get­ting traded with a player like Karls­son. It was good. I got to stay un­der the radar.”

Know­ing Meier helped with the tran­si­tion. When Meier joined the Rouyn- No­randa Huskies for the sec­ond half of the 2015-16 sea­son, Per­ron took him un­der his wing. Now, Meier is re­turn­ing the fa­vor, tak­ing Per­ron out for din­ner, show­ing him around San Jose when their sched­ules line up.

“We’re close. He’s a good friend of mine,” Meier said. “You try to look out for a guy like that be­cause he did the same thing when I went to Rouyn.”

Per­ron is also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a smooth tran­si­tion on the ice. He has made a seam­less in­te­gra­tion into the Bar­racuda, who rank sec­ond among AHL teams in points per­cent­age de­spite hav­ing the sec­ond-youngest ros­ter in the league. He sees a par­al­lel be­tween his ar­rival in San Jose with the emer­gence of play­ers such as Wil­liam Karls­son, Alex Tuch and Reilly Smith with the Ve­gas Golden Knights last sea­son. Like them, Per­ron says he just needed a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to show his stuff.

“I never re­ally got the chance to ex­plore the of­fen­sive part of my game,” Per­ron said of his time in the Ot­tawa or­ga­ni­za­tion. “Wil­liam Karls­son never put up num­bers like ( last sea- son) be­fore he got to Ve­gas. As soon as he got there, he got his chance and started to pro­duce. Ba­si­cally, I got lucky to be part of that trade, and once they gave me the chance, I took it.”

What did Meier see in Per­ron that made him so con­fi­dent his for­mer line­mate could find suc­cess in the Sharks sys­tem?

“He’s a guy that puts up points when you get him out there with top-six guys,” Meier said. “When I was play­ing with him, you give him the puck in front of the net, he’s go­ing to put it in. He gets to the ar­eas where he can use his shot and be dan­ger­ous.”

Ac­cord­ing to Bar­racuda coach Roy Som­mer, Per­ron’s game isn’t just flash and dash. Over the course of the sea­son, he has rounded out his 200-foot game as well, learn­ing the small de­tails of the game re­quired for suc­cess at the NHL level. Early in the sea­son, Per­ron fell into the turnover trap, try­ing to do too much with the puck. At one point, Som­mer al­most scratched him from the lineup.

“Now, he’s one of our hard­est-track­ing play­ers. He’s re­ally learned how to man­age the puck,” Som­mer said.

At this point, it’s un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect Per­ron to re­ceive a re­call to the NHL this win­ter un­less the Sharks suf­fer a bar­rage of in­juries. The Sharks are start­ing to lock their lineup into place and it’s un­wise to take on an ex­per­i­ment head­ing down the stretch run.

Still, Som­mer sees the NHL in Per­ron’s fu­ture.

“He has the skillset. He skates well. He can play in tight spa­ces and he isn’t a de­fen­sive li­a­bil­ity,” the Bar­racuda coach said. “He de­serves a look. He just needs that chance at the next level.”

JOHN LOCHER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sharks left wing Evan­der Kane skates around Ve­gas Golden Knights cen­ter Jonathan Marches­sault in Thurs­day’s game.

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