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Winnipeg Jets draft pick Cole Perfetti back in quarantine, eyeing roster spot

Winnipeg Jets first round draft pick Cole Perfetti answers questions from quarantine on Tuesday. Global News

Quarantine is becoming like old hat for Winnipeg Jets first round draft pick Cole Perfetti.

After isolating several times with the Canadian National Junior Team in December, Perfetti has one more seven-day quarantine to finish before he can join the NHL team.

Perfetti went home for some much-needed downtime after settling for a silver medal at the World Juniors following a loss to the United States in the final.

“To go through all that and come up so close and come up short, it hurt,” Perfetti said via Zoom on Tuesday. “I still believe we were the best team in that tournament.

“It’s disappointing winning a silver, but it was an honour to play for Hockey Canada and to represent this country on the world stage.”

Perfetti finished the event with one goal and four assists in seven tournament games.

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“Personally, I think I did good,” he said. “The World Juniors is not easy hockey, especially as an 18-year-old. It’s a hard tournament. They always say it’s 19-year-old tournament. If you look at (Trevor) Zegras and (Dylan) Cozens, they had good tournaments last year. And then they came back and dominated this year.

“As an 18-year-old, it’s hard to be that dominant player, but I was happy with my performance. I thought I contributed in key times whether it was on the scoresheet or in other ways.”

Read more: Winnipeg Jets lose goalie Eric Comrie and defenseman Luca Sbisa on waivers

Perfetti arrived in Winnipeg on Sunday, and is currently in quarantine in a Winnipeg hotel room until early next week. The Jets provided him with some weights so he can try to keep active until he can get back on the ice.

“Obviously they want me to be prepared and strong and fast when I’m able to come out of quarantine,” said Perfettti.

“I think they’re going to want me to hop into the pace pretty quickly. That’s my goal and I’m going to do as much as I can with what I have to ensure that when I come out, I’ll be able to hop into the fast pace.”

In any other year, Perfetti would likely be returning to the Ontario Hockey League, but with the OHL and even the AHL yet to drop the puck on their seasons, it’ll give the coaching staff a chance to have a longer look at their top pick from the 2020 NHL Draft.

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“There’s a lot of options this year,” Perfetti said. “There’s a lot of things that could play out, and quite frankly I’m not too sure what’s going to happen, where I’m going to end up, where I’m going to play.

“I’m going to take it day by day and wherever I am, just play to my best, and do what I can to stay at the highest level.”

Click to play video 'RAW: Cole Perfetti Interview – Jan. 12' RAW: Cole Perfetti Interview – Jan. 12
RAW: Cole Perfetti Interview – Jan. 12 – Jan 12, 2021

The NHL introduced a maximum six-player taxi squad during the pandemic, which is the most likely starting point for the rookie centre when quarantine is complete.

“The option is he starts with us, right, and then he’s assigned to either the taxi squad or the American Hockey League,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “We’ll just want him playing at the highest level that is possible for him to play at.”

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But in the long term, the taxi squad isn’t really an option, as the head coach has made it abundantly clear he doesn’t want young players sitting and not playing.

“God, I’d really like to stay away from having a young player that could be playing big minutes in the American Hockey League sitting on your taxi squad,” Maurice said.

“Having a young player sitting and watch hockey for a long period of time, that’s a tough thing to do to him.”

Read more: ‘We’re just not young anymore’: Winnipeg Jets shift gears to performance mode

Perfetti’s goal remains the same as when his name was called out at the draft – stick around for the NHL season.

“I think my goal is to play as many games in the NHL as possible,” said Perfetti. “The big goal is to make the NHL. Making the NHL as an 18-year-old is extremely hard, not a lot of players do it. But that’s my goal. I want to play as much as I can. I want to get in the lineup and hopefully stick.

“It’s always been a dream to go play in the NHL, to go to an NHL camp. Now that it’s four or five days away, it’s kinda hard to believe.”

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After concluding training camp, the Jets will name their opening night roster on Wednesday.

Click to play video 'RAW: Paul Maurice Interview – Jan. 11' RAW: Paul Maurice Interview – Jan. 11
RAW: Paul Maurice Interview – Jan. 11 – Jan 11, 2021