Saturday, March 12, 2016

David Perron doesn't have to wait any longer with Ducks

By Larry Wigge

It's been a long time ago that the kid wearing the white skates with the golden Midas touch stickhandling and shooting the puck was desperately determined to be noticed.

There is nothing average or normal about the story of a 27-year-old David Perron.

"He's got a great shot, quick hands," explained Sidney Crosby. "He's really skilled with the puck. He's confident with it. You can tell he doesn't mind hanging on to it. That's usually a pretty good sign. When a guy doesn't mind hanging on with it, that mean's he's pretty good with it."

A pretty good way to look at the 6 foot, 198-pounder from Sherbrooke, Quebec, who was a first-round pick, 26th overall, in the 2007 NHL Entry draft by the St. Louis Blues.

"I think that David is a dynamic player and he has an unbelievable skill set that sometimes takes a little time getting used to playing with," said St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong. "Not for a coach ... but for his teammates to get used to his nuances.

"I think David's going to fit into any system. He's a consummate professional and he wants to be a good player."

Nonetheless, Perron is now playing for his fourth NHL team, following stays with St. Louis, Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Anaheim.

He was acquired the Ducks on January 15 from the Penguins with Adam Clendening for Carl Hagelin.

Perron has scored eight goals and 11 assists in 22 games. He has put up a remarkable plus-13 ranking with the Ducks. His combined total between Pittsburgh and Anaheim is 12 goals and 23 assists. His top goal total was 28 in his first season with Edmonton in 2013-14.

David is a nit-picker with his sticks. When he gets them delivered from the factory, he cuts them down ... and cuts them down some more.

It helps Perron be one of the NHL's better puckhandlers. He maneuvers quickly in tight spaces and gives the Ducks more of that skill element.

"I'm not a proponent of short sticks, but whatever's working for him, I'm never going to say 'change,'" Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

It might as well be a magic wand for the Ducks.

"When you're talking like pure, pure hands, you're thinking about David," defenseman Kris Letang said. "You're thinking about Pavel Datsyuk, T.J. Oshie, Patrick Kane. Those type of guys."

Pretty good company, I'd say.

"I feel better as far as my game," Perron said. "It's not about points. I think I'm controlling the puck a lot and making plays. The stats are maybe similar in that regard, but I think it's the way you feel out there, the way you make plays, and I feel like I've been doing that."

And Ducks are rolling ... not like the highway traffic he now has to deal with the Los Angeles.

"There are highways with a lot of lanes out here ... and even carpool lanes," he says, shaking his head. "It's definitely different than anywhere else I've driven. But it's nice knowing wherever you're going, there's nice weather. It's pretty cool to be here."

Back to the white skates ...

Perron was eligible for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's midget draft, but was overlooked in 2004. Again in 2005. Finally, in the sixth round of the 2006 draft, his name was called.

Perron remembers being sprawled on the floor of his family’s home watching the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in June, after he had 24 goals and 45 assists in 51 games as a midget for St. Jerome.

"I remember watching Erik Johnson walk up to the stage as the first pick in the draft and wondered what it would be like to hear your name spoken in front of the whole hockey world," Perron remembered wondering. "That was my draft year, too. But scouts told me my name probably wouldn’t be called.

"Still, my mom, dad and brother and I were there in front of the TV eating popcorn and drinking soda and wondering ... if my name would be called."

Some in the Sherbrooke minor hockey program said the kid with the white skates was a troublemaker. Others said he was too individualistic to conform to team goals. Maybe he was just a late bloomer who needed a break.

Last June, Perron finally found out how it felt to hear an NHL team announce his name in front of the hockey world when his name was called by the Blues.

Which proves that success is definitely no accident -- and you can't find a how-to list that is going to show the pathway to success.

"I knew my name was in that same draft with Erik's, but I also knew that my chances of being chosen as a midget were slim and none because I didn't exactly take the same path that he did," Perron said. "But I wasn't about to let anyone tell me I couldn’t make it. I went back and worked harder."

Perron laughs now at the thought that some scouts told him he couldn't make it.

"It was funny, but 26 of the 30 teams interviewed me before the 2007 draft. None in 2006," Perron observed. "I remember talking with Columbus’ chief scout and he asked me; 'Why the heck didn't we draft you last year?' I told him as a joke; 'I don't know, you tell me.' I was a good player last year, too.

"It’s sort of like I went from being an unknown one year to the NHL the next. That’s pretty good stuff, eh?"

Good stuff, indeed.

"Whatever it takes" is the St. Louis Blues’ theme for the 2007-08 season. And Perron could be the poster boy.

"Not everyone here at the All-Star Game for the YoungStars took the same pathway to the NHL as Erik Johnson and Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin as the first player in the draft," Perron said with conviction. "Look at Pavel Datsyuk. He was overlooked in the draft ... and then didn’t get picked the next year until 170 or something like that. Are you going to tell me that he doesn't belong here? Or that he can’t dominate the game?"

Perron is smart, determined and most of all, passionate. Give him a rink and a puck and he’ll skate and shoot and stickhandle till they run him out of the building.

David sort of slew his Goliath with 39 goals and 44 assists at Lewiston of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. He played a pivotal role in the MAINEiacs’ championship season and was the team's second leading scorer at the Memorial Cup with 12 goals and 16 assists in just 17 games. Plus, he excelled for Canada in an eight-game "Super Series" against the Soviet Union in August.

"He was flat-out awesome, that's what I said to myself after seeing that," Blues President John Davidson said. "I knew we had a player. "He's got a great passion for the game. He's a rink rat. There's no question he's got the ability to score goals and pass the pucks, plus he has no fear of going into any area on the ice."

"David’s the special story," said Erik Johnson, now with Colorado. "Look at the obstacles he’s had to overcome."

Davidson added: "You don't see a guy in the first year make the club and do what he's done."

Perron told anyone who would listen that he planned to make the Blues when he arrived in St. Louis at a development camp for prospects in July. That confidence was rocked a bit, however, when he reported to training camp in September and ... he got to his locker and discovered that someone had painted black shoe polish over his white skates.

"At first, I'm like; 'What happened?' " Perron explained. "I understood when Coach (Andy Murray) told me that no one on this team was going to be different than anybody else and that Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya wouldn't be happy seeing a rookie coming here with white skates."

The Blues recognized the great individual skills and passion in Perron. Like an unbridled stallion. They also recognized a young kid who still has a lot to learn. And, boy, has it been a learning experience for David.

"I had to learn to be a pro," he said. "I had to learn the rules, the discipline, the consistency it takes to be in the NHL."

His favorite player growing up was Alexei Kovalev.

"Kovalev was my favorite player growing up," Perron said. "I just liked, obviously, the skill level he had. The hands, a different style than most players have in the league. Growing up, I just tried to do whatever he was doing ... his moves."

But, Perron needed to add muscle and stamina that he couldn't get at Lewiston, where there was no training facility like they have in St. Louis. Plus, David needed to learn responsibility. That came quickly, when the 19-year-old went to the wrong practice rink one day as well as when he missed a flight out of Montreal and returned late after the Christmas break.

There are, it seems, tricks that a 19-year-old can teach a 30-something veteran.

Upside. Skill. Passion. Quantum leap.

David Perron was overlooked by scouts ... and to think, they told this kid he couldn't make it.

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