The St. Louis Blues have one of the best prospect pools in the league. With players like Jordan Kyrou, Klim Kostin, and Dominik Bokk headlining the group, it can be hard to keep track of all the promising players at the Blues disposal. Yet, there are plenty of stars-in-the-making worth following. Arguably one of the best among that group is University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich.
Preparing for Training Camp: The Exciting Scotty Perunovich
Tenure in Minnesota
Perunovich has quickly become one of the most memorable players in UMD history despite only having two seasons with the team under his belt. The 20-year-old defenseman has been a major spark of the team’s success in the past two years. He’s also enjoyed his time their quite a bit. When asked, Perunovich said, “our team, the past two years, it’s been a blast to be on.”
The 5’10” Perunovich tallied a team-leading 36 points in 42 games during his freshman year. This was good enough to reel in a healthy amount of awards at the end of the year, including the Tim Taylor Award, as the NCAA rookie of the year, and being named to the All-American first team. He was the first UMD player to win the former award, and the second to win the latter.
He also played strong enough during his freshman year to join the United States roster at the 2018 World Juniors. There, Perunovich played alongside elite NHL prospects, including Casey Mittelstadt and Brady Tkachuk. He also faced off against players like Rasmus Dahlin and Kyrou. Needless to say, he was among elite company. “It was amazing to play with those elite players,” Perunovich said on the topic. “It really makes you want to push yourself to get to that level.”
This past year, Perunovich’s numbers decreased slightly. In 39 games, he managed a still-impressive 29 points. Yet, the decline in scoring was enough to bring out the critics. In late January, many were starting to question whether Perunovich was the NCAA’s latest one-hit-wonder. Yet, head coach Scott Sandelin and Perunovich agreed that the numbers weren’t important. Sandelin said at the time, “I think his overall game has been fine. Everybody reads too much into points.”
Of course, Perunovich is still well aware of the slight decline. He admits that he was a bigger factor to the team’s success during his freshman year. Yet, winning the championship this year definitely helped silence any doubt. “Obviously I think there is always room for improvement but the trophy at the end of the year always makes the season great... we are so proud to bring the national championship to Duluth.”
As a whole, Perunovich has still had a great two years with Minnesota. He describes himself as a, “pass first offensive defenseman who likes to make plays.” Watching him play, he certainly fulfills this description. He’s shown a dangerous amount of skill as a playmaker ever since his high school days. His ability to find open passes in all three zones is phenomenal. It’s almost a sixth sense of sorts, with Perunovich boasting a great hockey IQ.
After hearing how great of a playmaker Perunovich is, it’s an easy next step to wonder if he’s as equally prolific on the power play. The short answer is yes. Perunovich, who mentions that the power play is one of his favorite aspects of the game, is an elite quarterback of Minnesota’s man-advantage. He’s led his team in points on the power play in both seasons so far. In total, 28 of his 65 collegiate points have come on the PP. Of those 28, only five have been goals, further bolstering his track record as a playmaker. He also mentioned he enjoys 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 play, likely where he gets to truly show off his above average speed and skill.
Perunovich’s offensive prowess is so great that the team even tried his hand on forward. When multiple injuries limited their roster, Minnesota bumped Perunovich up to left wing alongside Kobe Roth and Billy Exell. This isn’t unnatural for Perunovich, who, like many, started his hockey career at forward. He moved back to defense for his high school career and stayed there for all but a few games during his sole year in the USHL. On moving back to the front-end this past season, Perunovich said, “I thought it was very fun but don’t see myself ever jumping to forward at a full time position.”
Help from the Coach
It’s common for young players that show so much skill on offense to struggle in their own end. While this wasn’t a huge issue for Perunovich, he credits Sandelin, and the rest of the Minnesota-Duluth coaching staff, for rounding out his play. “Our whole coaching staff is unbelievable to work with and I wouldn’t be half the player I am without all of them helping me.” He continued by talking about Sandelin in specific, saying, “he has helped my game tremendously in the D zone and making sure my work ethic is always high.”
Seeing how much of a role Sandelin has played isn’t much of a shock. The UMD head coach of 19 years has long been considered one of the best coaches in collegiate hockey. So much so that NHL teams have been rumored to be interested in the coach.
As of right now, all that matters for Perunovich is putting together a great prospect camp. He joined the 29 other prospects attending camp at Busch Stadium on Monday, where they did a handful of extracurricular before Tuesday’s starting date. He was very excited to be apart of the Blues organization, saying, “it was an amazing feeling to be taken by the Blues and to see that they had confidence in picking me. The run they had this year was super fun to watch and I’m very proud to be in their organization.”
Despite being a veteran of last year’s prospect camp, alongside players like Kyrou and Kostin, Perunovich’s mindset hasn’t changed much. “I’m thrilled to just be able to be at an NHL camp and I really want to play my game and show them what I can bring.” If Perunovich can manage a strong showing at this year’s camp, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Blues begin negotiations over his entry-level contract, talks that have yet to start. Of course, one can’t get caught up on contracts too much. Instead, Perunovich wants to do all he can to simply continue his career. “I just plan to train and work hard to put myself in the best position to be able to jump to the next level.”
Off the ice, Perunovich says he enjoys golfing and, “anything on the lake”. While St. Louis may not have as much as Minnesota to offer in that department, he’ll find enough to get by when he finally makes the jump to the grand stage.