Over two seasons have gone by since the Arizona Coyotes selected Brendan Perlini with the 12th overall pick in 2014. And the question about Perlini has gone from "Can he be a top six player in the NHL?" to "Can he be a regular player in the NHL?"
So what’s up with Brendan Perlini? And can the Coyotes’ player development staff in Tucson get him back on track?
#8 - Brendan Perlini - Left Wing - Niagara IceDogs - 12th overall pick, 2014 Draft
Highest Rank: 2
Lowest Rank: 13
In the interest of full disclosure, this author was the panelist who ranked Perlini the lowest of all of our voters. Perlini’s 2015-16 season was a quintessential example of Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will.
He was first demoted from training camp in September of 2015 after a highly underwhelming preseason. He then continued his backslide in Niagara by recording 15 fewer points than in 2014-15 despite playing 14 fewer games. His struggles at major-junior perplexed the Coyotes brass. And when Perlini had seemingly returned to form in the OHL playoffs with six goals and three assists in twelve games, he was forced to sit out three games with a suspension for an illegal cross-check.
Thankfully, that season is over, and Perlini is now AHL eligible, which is almost certainly where Perlini will start the 2016-17 campaign. Which may be in the best interest of everyone.
Head coach Dave Tippett likes many of the more intangible portions of Perlini’s game, such as his skating and his offensive awareness. And Coyotes Player Development Coach Steve Sullivan believes that some of Perlini’s struggles are mental, and therefore fixable with the right attention.
It’s not hard to see why Perlini was selected at #12 back in 2014; at 6’ 2", 212 pounds, Perlini has the most NHL ready frame of anybody in Arizona’s system. He is physically ready to handle the punishment of high level professional hockey.
And Perlini’s playoff run pre-suspension shows that when everything clicks, Perlini can be a dominant offensive force.
Brendan Perlini would not be the only member of the Coyotes’ talent pool to take time to realize his full potential. Jordan Martinook took three seasons in the AHL to develop before sticking with the parent club. And recent acquisition Lawson Crouse has never looked dominant in major-junior, but might be more NHL ready than a cursory look would imply.
Perlini remained in Phoenix after prospect development camp ended this July. What he looks like during training camp this season will afford Coyotes’ management and fans a better chance to see if he truly is heading towards the dreaded "bust" label, or if he has risen to the challenges of a tough season to become a better player overall.