We are just three weeks away from the 2023 NHL Draft. This has shaped-up to be one of the deepest, front-loaded draft classes in a long time and could rival that of previous draft classes like 2003 or in 2015. At the top of the draft are the Chicago Blackhawks with the first overall selection and they will undoubtedly be taking the top-overall prospect for the past three years in this draft class, Connor Bedard. But that’s not the end-all, be-all for the Blackhawks in this year’s draft. The club has six picks in the first two rounds and nine picks in the first 100 selections, so as we approach draft week in Nashville, we’re taking a look at the players we on the CHGO Blackhawks crew think would fit the needs of the Blackhawks in their rebuilding efforts.
Today we look at U.S. Development Program record-breaker Gabe Perreault.
Gabe Perreault Measurables
“While there are a lot of highly intelligent players worth highlighting in this draft, there are two players whose hockey sense stands out from the pack in a distinct way, those being Michkov and Gabe Perreault…Perreault broke the single-season U.S. NTDP points record in part because of his elite brain. He is an extremely creative forward who makes unique plays with the puck at a high rate and reminds me a lot of Cole Perfetti at the same age.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic
“He’s a better skater than he gets credit for, with above-average speed for my money and room to add power and pick up another step as he gets stronger. Because of his genetics, he should add the necessary weight and strength eventually. I’d eagerly bet on him and with the proper patience I expect the right team will reap the rewards of a top-six playmaking winger. There might not be a player in this draft class who thinks the game offensively at his level.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
“Perreault’s biggest strength is the way he thinks the game because his skating is average and he doesn’t have tremendous size. He just always seems to make the right play, doesn’t get caught doing too much and seems to understand his limitations and how to mask those with creative plays with the puck on his stick.” – Chris Peters, Flo Hockey
Why Gabe Perreault fits with the Blackhawks
You don’t break records set by Jack Hughes and Auston Matthews by accident. That’s what Perreault did this season while playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program with 132 points, surpassing Matthews as the previous record-holder for the most points in a USNTDP season by 15 points. Yes, Perreault played alongside the likes of Will Smith and Ryan Leonard, both slated to go within the first 10-15 picks of the draft, but Perreault was far more than just a beneficiary of his surroundings.
As we’ve seen in the past with a player like Patrick Kane, the effectiveness of an all-world talent can only be maximized when special players are paired with them. It’s not easy playing with a player at the level of Patrick Kane and when he was paired with the likes of Artemi Panarin and Alex DeBrincat, Kane had his best two seasons of his career. That situation could potentially come about again with Connor Bedard. Pairing him with a playmaker who sees the ice and thinks the game at the level of Perreault for the next decade could make the duo a 1-2 punch in Chicago that rivals that of Kane and Toews over the past decade-plus.