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Perron on track to be Blues’ first home-grown French star

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By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospects Columnist

In the over forty seasons that the St. Louis Blues have competed as a member of the NHL, they have done so without a significant French-Canadian offensive presence on the squad. While Montreal has had their "Flying Frenchmen," and Francophone stars such as Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy have set high standards of offensive excellence in other cities, the Blues have yet to draft and develop a significant French-Canadian player on offense.

The best French-speaking Blues, stastically speaking, have been a pair of Pierres acquired in trade: Pierre Plante (104-112-216 in 357 games as a Blue), who wore the 'Note between 1972 and 1977, and, more recently, Pierre Turgeon (134-221-355 in 327 games as a Blue), who starred for the Blues from 1996 to 2001. The most significant French-speaking offensive player drafted and developed by the Blues has been Jocelyn Lemieux (drafted 10th overall by the Blues in 1986), who managed only 11 goals and 19 points in 76 games as a Blue, and bounced around the league for 164 total points in 598 career games between 1986 and 1998.

Quebec has been a rich source of offensive talent for other NHL clubs over the years; the Blues, however, have not dipped into that well with much success. That may very well change, and more quickly than ever thought possible, now that David Perron has become a member of the Blues' organization.

Perron, a 6'0, 180-pound right-shooting center, hails from Sherbrooke, Quebec, about 75 miles east of Montreal, and about 25 miles north of the US/Canadian border. Drafted 26th overall by the Blues on June 22, his rise to prominence in a brief career has been almost as rapid as the time it takes to drive from his home to the United States

Not ranked at all by International Scouting Services in their October 2006 rankings of prospects for the 2007 Entry Draft, Perron shot up the charts to be the 15th-ranked prospect on the ISS list by season's end. He enjoyed a similar, though not quite so meteoric, rise in the McKeen's Hockey Prospects rankings, going from an unranked player in October to 46th in January, to a final ranking of 32nd overall.

Perron also rose in the NHL Central Scouting rankings over the course of the year, from 18th at mid-term to a final ranking as the 10th-best North American prospect in the CSB's eyes.

"I want to make the team, for sure. I'm not looking to come here in September for training camp just to make an impression, just to have the experience. I want to make the team right away."

--David Perron

Just two seasons ago, at age 16, Perron was playing Midget B hockey in Fleurimont, Quebec, when many of his peers were already in major junior or the elite junior leagues in Europe. He played one season at the AAA junior level for les Pantheres of St-Jérôme, and started to show signs of his potential there with 24 goals and 59 points in a 51-game season.

Growing up in proximity to the United States, and the state of Maine specifically, Perron considered a move to the NCAA. In fact, as he told Chris McCluskey of the McKeen's Hockey Prospects website in an interview posted there on May 18, Perron almost became a teammate of Blues' goaltending prospect Ben Bishop

"I also had some offers from colleges," Perron told McCluskey. "I went to the University of Maine in Orono to visit, and was very impressed about it, but the style of hockey... it's not like my style. I remember when I was growing up I was watching QMJHL games and it was more my style."

While ultimately deciding against the university, Perron would still find his way to Maine to continue his hockey career. Taken almost as an afterthought by Lewiston in the sixth round of the 2006 QMJHL Entry Draft (101st overall), Perron made an impact quickly by being named QMJHL Rookie of the Month for both November and December 2006, and was a finalist for the QMJHL's Rookie of the Year award which was eventualy won by Jakub Voracek of Halifax.

Perron was not named to either the first or second All-Star teams in the QMJHL, but it's hard to argue with the selections of Mathieu Perreault (119 points in 67 games) or James Sheppard (96 points in 56 games, and the ninth overall pick in the 2006 Draft) to those positions. Perron may be able to make the case that he was snubbed for the center spot on the All-Rookie team, however, as the QMJHL governors voted Chris DiDomenico of Saint John (25-50-75 in 70 games) to that position over the more-accomplished Perron.

Though he didn't capture any of the league's individual awards, Perron and his Lewiston teammates earned plenty of team accolades this year by roaring through the "Q" with the league's best record, and marching to the President's Cup with little opposition on their way to a Memorial Cup tournament appearance. Perron led the MAINE-iacs in scoring during the regular season, and also led the way during the playoffs. On April 13th, Perron chipped in a five-point night (1+4) in the deciding game of Lewiston's second-reound series with Voracek's Halifax Mooseheads, and eventually racked up 28 points (12 G, 16 A) in 17 games for the QMJHL champions.

The fiery Frenchman is a player with tremendous upside, and elite-level hands and stickhandling ability. He isn't the greatest of skaters, but he has enough speed and skill to beat defenders either to the outside or right up the middle, and he has the instincts and the shot to make the most of the chances he generates from those efforts.

"Game Time" had the opportunity to sit down with Perron after a practice during the recent Blues' Development Camp. Both polite and self-confident, Perron pulls no punches about his belief in himself, and in his ability to be an impact player for the Blues in the not-too-distant future.

Game Time: Let's talk about the draft a little bit, if you don't mind. Were you taken where you expected to go, higher or lower? Did you think that you would be a 26th-pverall pick?

David Perron: I didn't have any expectations coming into the draft. I know that on the Blues' list I was pretty highly ranked, and on some other teams' (lists) as well. I think they were glad to have me at 26th, but like I said, I didn't have any expectations, whether it was first round, second round, or anything. It was just fun to be there, and it was a great experience overall.

GT: Did you have a lot of contact with the Blues before the draft? When did you know that they might be interested in you?

DP: I met (with) them at the NHL Combine in Toronto, and then I met them again before the draft. I knew then that they were interested in me.

I'm just glad that I'm here, with this home crowd. It's surprising. I'm from (near) Montreal, and I was going to games there when I was younger and seeing that crowd. It's a hockey town, so I guess it's a good town for hockey here as well.

GT: Did you talk to any of the Blues' scouts during the season in Lewiston? Did you know, even back then, that they might have an interest in you?

DP: I don't think so. I know my assistant coach talked to their scout a lot, but they didn't talk to me; just my coaches.

GT: Tell me about Lewiston a little bit; what's the hockey culture like there?

DP: There has been hockey there the last four years, with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and I think it's getting better. I went to the rink the other week, and you could see the papers (on the seats) for the sold season tickets, and there were a lot of them since we won the (President's) Cup last year, and if I do come back there next year, it's going to be good to see all those people in the stands.

GT: What was it like, playing in the Memorial Cup tournament?

DP: It's a great experience; thirteen, fourteen, fifteen thousand persons in the stands. The thing is not to get too impressed by anything, by the rink, or by the people there. Just play your game. Like the draft, it was a great, great experience, but I wish our team could have won the Memorial Cup as well as (winning) our league like we did.

GT: Talk a little bit if you would about the strengths of your game. What do you think are your strongest points as a player?

DP: My strengths are my vision and my stickhandling. I think, as a skater, I'm agile and I turn quickly. I have a good shot, so I can score some goals, but I think I'm a good playmaker as well.

GT: What about some of the areas that you think you need to work on a little bit?

DP: I need to work on my skating; my full-speed skating needs to improve, and maybe my acceleration as well. We have a skating coach here, and I've learned a lot in two days already, so hopefully in the next few days I'll learn more. I think my skating's already gotten better from having the coach here.

GT: French-Canadian players have been known for the passion they brng to the game. Do you think you're a passionate kind of player on the ice, one of those guys that'll "go the extra mile" for his team.

DP: Yeah, I think I'm like that. I'm a gamebreaker; I like to score those important goals, like game-tying goals to get the team back in the game. I have a great, great passion for the game; I don't think it's only French-Canadians who have that, but I know I have that.

GT: Aside from playing in the Memorial Cup, what have been some of the other notable experiences you've had in junior, and growing up?

DP: Two years ago, I played Midget B, so I don't really have a lot of experience in big tournaments. The next year I was in AAA, which was pretty much the same, not that big of a league. Last year, we won our league title, and I was the leading scorer in the pre-season, regular season, playoff and Memorial Cup, which was (a) great (accomplishment) for me. And I guess I'm going to Russia for the World Junior Championship tryouts for Canada (August 20 through September 8, 2007), so that's going to be pretty interesting. We'll play four games there, and four games back in Canada, so that's going to be pretty exciting.

GT: Are any of your current teammates, from this camp, going to be in that camp as well?

DP: I don't know. Jonathan Bernier, our goalie this year (in Lewiston) is going to be there, so at least I'll know someone there. I don't think any of the guys here are going to be in the camp for Canada, but for other teams, the USA and Sweden, some of the players will be there for sure.

GT: What plans do you have for this season? Do you think you have a good shot at making the Blues, or do you think you'll wind up going back to junior for another year?

DP: I want to make the team, for sure. I'm not looking to come here in September for training camp just to make an impression, just to have the experience. I want to make the team right away.

I've talked to Al Macinnis, and he said that there's a surprise (player in camp) every year, so it's just up to you to make the surprise (happen). We know you can make it. For me, in my mind, if I come down to the camp and I'm focused on my goal to make the team, I'm going to make the team.

If I have to go back to junior, I hope I can have the same things as last year, and win the (President's) Cup with my team, but I'm coming here to make the team, for sure.

GT: Where do you see yourself fitting in with the Blues in two years, or five years? What do you see your role as being with this team?

DP: Well, I see myself as a game-breaker, so on one of the two top lines. I want to be the type of guy, as I said, that you rely on to get those important goals. I think I can be one of the top scorers on the team in, say, five years. I'm ready to play, and like I said, I want to be an important guy on the team.

GT: Did you know a whole lot about the Blues before they drafted you? Had you been a fan of the team at all?

DP: I remember some great players for sure, Brett Hull, Al Macinnis. I've been a fan of hockey since I was young, and I watched a lot of different teams. Not only Montreal because I lived there, but I watched Pittsburgh a lot because of (Jaromir) Jagr and (Alexei) Kovalev. They were some of my favorite players.

GT: Did you have a favorite player growing up?

DP: Yeah, Kovalev.

GT: Would you say you play a similar style of game to him?

DP: I've got some flashes of his game, like some stickhandling abilities similar to his. But I try to take (on) the best (aspects) of my favorite players, not only Kovalev, but Datsyuk and Zetterberg, different players. Doug Weight, I like him a lot, he's a great playmaker.

GT: You wouldn't necessarily compare yourself to one particular player, then?

DP: No, I want to be my own style of player, I don't want to copy anybody.

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Here's a brief video clip of Perron in action during the Prospects Game on July 13 at St. Louis Mills. In it, you can see Perron's tendency to work the perimeter in the offensive zone, but you will also notice him jumping into high-traffic areas in the slot and behind the net on a couple of occasions, in an effort to make something happen. You'll also see him hustle back on defense when the play starts to go the other way.

As with the previous prospect video clips, click on the still shot below to start the video, then use the Back" button in your browser to navigate back to the "Game Time" site after the video plays.


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David Perron
Center, shoots left.
6-00, 180 pounds.
Born May 28, 1988, Sherbrooke, QC.

2005-06 Season ..... GP G. A. Pts +/- PIM PP SH FG GW IG
==================== == == == === === === == == == == ==
St-Jérôme AAA ...... 51 24 45 .69 + 8 .92 10 .0 .0 .2 .0
... Playoffs ....... .8 .4 .5 ..9 - 1 ..8 .2 .0 .0 .0 .0

Drafted by Lewiston in the 6th round (101st overall) of
the 2006 QMJHL Entry Draft.

2006-07 Season ..... GP G. A. Pts +/- PIM PP SH FG GW IG
==================== == == == === === === == == == == ==
September Totals ... .6 .4 .2 ..6 ..4 ..8 .1 .0 .0 .0 .0
October Totals ..... 12 .8 .6 .16 ..2 ..6 .4 .0 .0 .1 .0
November Totals .... 10 .6 .8 .14 ..6 .12 .2 .0 .0 .2 .0
December Totals .... 11 .5 .7 .12 ..5 ..6 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0
January Totals ..... 12 .3 .7 .10 ..8 .23 .0 .0 .0 .1 .0
February Totals .... 10 .7 .5 .12 ..6 .10 .0 .0 .0 .1 .0
March Totals ....... .9 .6 .9 .15 ..6 .10 .3 .0 .0 .2 .0

YtD Totals (Sep) ... .6 .4 .2 ..6 ..4 ..8 .1 .0 .0 .0 .0
YtD Totals (Oct) ... 18 12 .8 .20 ..6 .14 .5 .0 .0 .1 .0
YtD Totals (Nov) ... 28 18 16 .34 .12 .26 .7 .0 .0 .3 .0
YtD Totals (Dec) ... 39 23 23 .46 .17 .32 .7 .0 .0 .3 .0
YtD Totals (Jan) ... 51 26 30 .56 .25 .55 .7 .0 .0 .4 .0
YtD Totals (Feb) ... 61 33 35 .68 .31 .65 .7 .0 .0 .5 .0
YtD Totals (Mar) ... 70 39 44 .83 .37 .75 10 .0 .0 .7 .0

Playoffs ........... GP G. A. Pts +/- PIM PP SH FG GW IG
==================== == == == === === === == == == == ==
March Totals ....... .4 .5 .1 ..6 ..2 ..4 .3 .0 .0 .1 .0
April Totals ....... .9 .5 12 .17 ..7 .10 .3 .0 .0 .2 .0
May Totals ......... .4 .2 .3 ..5 - 3 ..8 .1 .0 .0 .1 .0

YtD Totals (Mar) ... .4 .5 .1 ..6 ..2 ..4 .3 .0 .0 .1 .0
YtD Totals (Apr) ... 13 10 13 .23 ..9 .14 .6 .0 .0 .3 .0
YtD Totals (May) ... 17 12 16 .28 ..6 .22 .7 .0 .0 .4 .0

Other .............. GP G. A. Pts +/- PIM PP SH FG GW IG
==================== == == == === === === == == == == ==
Top Prospects Gm ... .1 .0 .1 ..1 ..0 ..0 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0
Memorial Cup 2007 .. .4 .1 .2 ..3 ..0 ..0 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0

One of 44 players from across Canada invited to the 2007
Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Quebec
City. Assisted on Jakub Voracek's game-winning goal
at 10:53 of 2nd period.

Link to Perron interview at McKeen's (requires membership and login to view)

http://mckeenshockey.rivals.com/content.asp?SID=960&CID=674949

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As always, remember... "If we do not prepare for ourselves the role of the hammer, there will be nothing left but that of the anvil." Auf wiedersehen.