Usually, when a 19-year-old CHL prospect is knocked out of the NHL lineup, his team is forced to send back to junior for the whole year or just hold him as an extra. Both are sometimes detrimental for his development, so for years, teams have wished for an AHL exemption when it comes to elite prospects. This year, that exemption exists for a handful of players who spent at least 20 games at the AHL level last season.
Today, the Winnipeg Jets and Cole Perfetti will take advantage of it, as the young forward has been assigned to the Manitoba Moose. Perfetti played in 32 games with Manitoba last season when the OHL campaign was canceled and actually did quite well. Despite being younger than almost every one of his opponents, the 2020 first-round pick racked up 26 points in 32 games for the Moose. Now he’ll get the chance to build on that performance and continue his professional career, instead of returning to the OHL where he had already proved his dominance.
Perfetti made the Jets out of camp but was a healthy scratch on Tuesday night as the Jets decided to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Minnesota Wild. One thing to remember when it comes to this decision is that while Perfetti has an exemption and can play in the AHL, his contract status is no different than any other 19-year-old prospect. That is, if he plays in eight more games this season he would burn the first year of his entry-level deal. If not–even if he’s playing in the AHL–that deal will slide forward a year and not expire until 2025.
Another added bonus of sending him to the AHL instead of the OHL? Perfetti can be recalled at any point should he show enough to earn a full-time NHL spot, or if the team has injuries that need to be covered. With the team potentially bracing for more positive COVID-19 results, he could even be up within a few days. The Moose are on the road in Laval tonight, but will return home to Manitoba for a four-game homestand that starts on Friday night. If Perfetti’s to continue developing into the player the Jets projected at 10th overall, he needs to play.