Perron cherry on cake of Karlsson deal
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.”
Sharks left wing Evander Kane skates around Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault in Thursday’s game.