Winnipeg Jets prospect Cole Perfetti has played his final game for the Manitoba Moose this season, but his hockey season is far from done.
Perfetti accepted an invitation to play for Team Canada at the upcoming World Championship in Latvia.
“It’s crazy to think about,” said Perfetti. “To do that before I even have my first NHL camp — it’s crazy.”
With the Ontario Hockey League season cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, it allowed the 19-year-old to spend the season in the American Hockey League with the Moose, instead of returning back to junior. And the chance to turn pro a year early has certainly helped open the door for his newest opportunity.
“I’m thrilled and honoured and just gonna soak it up and just extremely grateful that I’ve been able to get all this development and do some of these things that I wouldn’t be able to normally do in a non-COVID year,” he said.
“It’s always a bucket list tournament for me. So to be able to do it, especially as a 19-year-old, and get the chance to play in this tournament is pretty special.”
Perfetti has already left the Moose to go home and spend time with family before flying out to Latvia this weekend.
It’s the second chance for Perfetti to represent his country this year after playing at the recent World Juniors. And he understands it’ll be a big step up in competition from the AHL.
“Obviously the hockey is going to be really hard,” said Perfetti. “But if I can just carry the confidence that I had from the Moose and continue to play the way that I did, I think we’re a very skilled team, a pretty young team. A lot of these guys, I think it’s their first opportunity at the tournament.
“So, I think everyone is pretty eager, pretty hungry, and anytime you put on that Canadian jersey, your game elevates and goes to another level.”
The Jets’ first round draft pick from the 2020 NHL Draft notched nine goals and 17 assists in 32 games for the Moose in his first year as a pro. But he took his game to an all new level the last month with 16 points in his final 11 games.
“Early in the year, I was putting myself in positions that wasn’t giving me a lot of time and space,” said Perfetti. “Later in the year I just knew, like, where the soft spots were on the ice, where you could find a little bit of extra time and space, a couple extra seconds with the puck. And that just came with the experience of playing throughout the year.”
Despite the excitement of this brand-new opportunity, it was still tough for Perfetti to say goodbye to his Moose teammates.
“It sucked the other day driving home and knowing I’m not going to see those guys,” Perfetti said. “It’s hard when you’re spending every day with them and having such a good time.
“The last couple days here, I’ve been phoning with them, texting with them a lot of the guys. Just wish I was still there kinda, finishing out with them and finishing what we started.”
Canada’s first game of the tournament is against host Latvia on May 21.