Coyotes use 12th pick on English-born Perlini

Brendan Perlini smiles as he puts on an Arizona Coyotes sweater after he was selected No. 12 in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft on Friday.

The list of NHL players born in the United Kingdom is longer than you might imagine. But it was hockey bloodlines and a move to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, at age 11 that probably ensured Brendan Perlini’s ascension to first-round pick.

The newly minted Arizona Coyotes made the Guildford, Surrey, England, native the 12th pick in the NHL Draft on Friday, ending a busy day in which they also announced the buyout of center Mike Ribeiro.

Perlini’s brother, Brett, played at Michigan State and was drafted by Anaheim in 2010. At 6-feet-2, 205 pounds, Brendan has the build of a prototypical power forward with room on his frame for another 20 pounds. But it’s his skill-set that sets him apart from a lot of other big bodies.

"For being such a big guy I think I’m one of the best skaters in the draft," said Perlini, who wears No. 11 as a tribute to his father, Fred, who played eight games with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being drafted 158th overall in 1980.

Scouting reports also tout Perlini’s acceleration and quickness, his long reach, his puck possession, his shot and he is rated an excellent passer. If there has been a criticism of Perlini, it has been his ability to play with consistency.

During the regular season with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, Perlini got off to a hot start and finished with 34 goals and 71 points in 58 games. But he didn’t score in seven playoff games and added had one assist. In the U18 World Junior Championship — with Coyotes GM Don Maloney and director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt in attendance — he had three goals and four points in seven games.

"It’s like all big, young players," Maloney said. "He’s a big growing boy and sometimes they look like they’re not moving as well as they want to, but there’s not an area of his game where I can say ‘This needs to happen for him to be a good pro.’ 

"It’s strictly a matter of maturity. He’s got all the ingredients to be a front-line NHL player down the road. Whether that happens in two, three or four years I can’t tell you."

Perlini is expected to return to juniors again next year for another year of seasoning.

The Coyotes still have seven more picks in rounds 2-7 of the draft on Saturday. Maloney said they still need to stockpile skilled forwards to combat an organizational deficiency, but he also acknowledged that with Connor Murphy and Brandon Gormley expected to make the roster this season, the team probably needs to add more depth on the blue line.

And with Ribeiro gone, Maloney would like to address the need for more centers through the draft and in free agency, although the latter could be in the form of a third-line center. Maloney said he is comfortable heading into the season with Antoine Vermette and Martin Hanzal as his top two centers.  

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