EDMONTON — Cole Perfetti is off to a good start as he pursues the second-line centre spot for the Winnipeg Jets.
Perfetti scored the shootout winner as the Jets started off the pre-season schedule with a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
The 10th overall selection in the 2020 draft said he felt good about his game to start exhibition play as he attempts to take over the centre role no longer occupied by Pierre-Luc Dubois.
“I haven’t played a game since February,” said the 21-year-old Perfetti, who has suffered season-ending injuries in his first two pro campaigns with the Jets. “It’s been a long layoff. With the speed that the game had, it took a couple of shifts to get my feet wet.
"But I thought as the game went on, I got better and better every shift and felt more comfortable and made more plays. It was also my first game back at centre in a while, so getting comfortable was the main thing.”
Jets coach Rick Bowness has high hopes for Perfetti, who has recorded 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) in 69 career games for Winnipeg between injuries.
“That is his first game at centre for us and he handled it well,” he said. “You can see his hockey IQ and the vision that he has. He is a great passer.
"We are going to give him every opportunity in the pre-season to feel comfortable in that spot.”
Dominic Toninato scored in regulation for the Jets (1-0).
Zach Hyman replied for the Oilers (0-0-1).
Winnipeg struck first 7:55 into the opening period. Brenden Dillon sprung Toninato for a breakaway and he managed to send it through the legs of Oilers starting goaltender Olivier Rodrigue.
The Oilers tied the game up on a power play with just under six minutes left in the first period. Hyman picked up a rebound in front off a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins point shot and slid it past Jets goalie Collin Delia.
Edmonton had the bulk of the chances in the scoreless second period, but Delia stood tall in net, including a huge glove save on Evander Kane with five minutes to play in the frame.
The Oilers had a glorious chance to grab the lead with six minutes to play in the third period when Hyman sent a puck through the crease, but Kane was unable to direct the puck home from the side of the net.
Edmonton had a flurry of opportunities in the final minute, but Delia remained strong to send the game to extra time.
The Oilers outshot the Jets 37-26.
One of the intriguing storylines for the Oilers was Brandon Sutter, who hasn’t played the past two seasons due to long-COVID complications.
The former Vancouver Canucks forward is on a Professional Tryout Offer (PTO) with the Oilers.
“I've never been jittery for a pre-season game before,” Sutter said. “It just felt good to be out there, and my kids were here and they haven’t seen me play in three years.
"They're little, so they don’t remember anything. So it was kind of a special night for me.”
Edmonton dressed 11 players considered locks for their regular-season lineup, while Winnipeg had nine … Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl did not play … The Oilers are scheduled to play eight total pre-season games, more than any other NHL squad … Jets veteran forward Nikolaj Ehlers appears close to a return from injury and could join the group at main camp as early as Wednesday.
The two teams are right back at it for a rematch in Winnipeg on Monday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2023.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press