Two of the best players in the NHL from Great Britain made their last appearances in the top flight of North American ice hockey this millennium. Both spending 20 years in the league, Owen Nolan, from Belfast, accumulated 1,200 regular season games with 65 in the playoffs, and Steve Thomas, of Stockport, clocked in a mighty 1,235 and 174 games in the regular season and playoffs, respectively.
Now there’s a new young Brit ready to take the league by storm, with the potential to reach the lofty heights of former British-born stars.
Brendan Perlini: Britain’s NHL star
Drafted 12th overall in 2014, it took longer than many expected for Brendan Perlini to finally suit up in the NHL given how desperate the Arizona Coyotes were for talent and his obvious potential as a top-scoring option.
A couple of down years with the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL didn’t help the young Englishman, as well as Arizona’s prospect pool being extremely deep at the time, but he displayed his true talents once more with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners last season.
Perlini was finally given a chance in the NHL last season, and he grabbed it with both hands. The Guilford-native scored 14 goals and 21 points through 57 games while playing for a rather dire Coyotes team, with his -4 rating being particularly impressive.
Now that he’s proven his worth in the NHL, the Coyotes are looking to build-up their team around him and their other established young stars after a season that didn’t see them make the progress that many anticipated. With slick skating, the ability to work well in the dirty areas, and a wicked shot on him, Perlini is quickly becoming one of the team’s most exciting players.
Now 21 years old, Perlini has seen the Coyotes team around him change quite significantly over the offseason. They lost their top scorer Radim Vrbata, as well as Connor Murphy, Laurent Dauphin, and Anthony DeAngelo via trade, but the players brought in should boost the play of the young stars. Adding the likes of Adam Clendening, Zac Rinaldo, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta will only improve the team and help the young players to continue to develop into their lofty potential.
Playoffs make stars
It’s as true in the NHL as it is the EIHL; it all comes down to the playoff performances. Unfortunately for Brendan Perlini, he doesn’t look to be in the playoffs in 2018, with the Arizona Coyotes standing as the joint-last favourites to win the Stanley Cup at 125/1, as well as seventh favourite – out of eight teams – to win the Pacific Division at 30/1.
Despite all of the potential and exciting talent on the roster, the bookies simply aren’t backing them to do much in the 201718 season. From within their division, there are far more likely candidates to win the cup – thus also preferred for backing to win the division – with the likes of the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks all favoured over the Coyotes in the betting.
To be fair, stranger things have happened than a team like Arizona making it to the playoffs or even just winning their division, but the better use of the latest free bets offers lies with teams like the Oilers, Ducks, or even the Calgary Flames right now.
The fact is that while Perlini is on a rebuilding team, he won’t be able to build his legacy as an elite player because elite players go big in the post-season. Arizona should be in shape to challenge for a playoff spot in the next few seasons or so, but until then, Perlini will need to do his best to score often in the NHL, stay fit, and prove his abilities in the regular season stats column.
Will Perlini be great?
Watching Brendan Perlini play for the Arizona Coyotes last year was like getting a breath of fresh air, he was fast, skilful, and showed off his slick shooting often. If he can build on his decent rookie season, there’s no reason why Perlini can’t grow into his incredible potential and eventually rank among Britain’s best NHL players.
Photo Source: Five For Howling, via Twitter