TRAVERSE CITY — David Perron made an immediate, favorable impression on the first day of training camp.
The veteran forward exuded energy, helping to feed the freshness that permeates the Detroit Red Wings after a makeover that extended to players at every position and the coaching staff. Perron, 34, is the oldest player on the team, and has played 973 career NHL games, but he is eager to prove how much of an impact he can make as the Wings move forward in the rebuild.
“I think for me at the stage of my career that I am at, I want to be a difference maker on the ice, still, bring some of the stuff that I was doing in St. Louis,” Perron said Thursday. “Team-wise is really where I want to make a difference also, leadership-wise, team identity, talking about some of the details. Kind of being an extension if you will, kind of preaching the right stuff in the room by talking and by my play. Making sure that the staples defensively and throughout our system are there consistently.”
Perron’s enthusiasm on his first day in a new job earned rave reviews from coach Derek Lalonde.
“Even in his want to push practice today, what’s been really exciting about David in talking to him throughout the summer, he’s self-admitted that he’s had to evolve in his career,” Lalonde said. “I think it’s an unbelievable example —here he is now, he expects practice to be at a high pace, he wants guys to work throughout the entire practice. I think he’s embracing that role. It’s something we talked about, something he wanted to embrace in the offseason, and Day 1, he stayed true to his word.”
General manager Steve Yzerman saw Perron (6 feet 1, 196 pounds) as an ideal fit to strengthen the Wings’ offense, signing him for $9.5 million over two years. Perron, who won the Stanley Cup in 2019 with the Blues, has 269 career goals, 71 of them on man advantages. Drafted at No. 26 overall in 2007 (one spot before the Wings drafted Brendan Smith), Perron gives the Wings another right-shot option on power plays, joining Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider and Filip Hronek.
Perron was among a slew of offseason additions by Yzerman, a group that includes forwards Dominik Kubalik and Andrew Copp, defensemen Ben Chiarot and Olli Määttä, and goaltender Ville Husso.
“I’ve played against David for seven of my NHL years and he’s very hard to play against,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s a gamer. I’ve noticed that in practice and summer skates — he’s been in town for a little bit. He’s a gamer. He’s very skilled. He wants the puck on his stick. I think he’s going to be great for our young players, someone that’s won in this league and produced at a high level for a long time. He brings it every day.”
With Copp sidelined until late October recovering from abdominal surgery, Lalonde had Perron on a line with Michael Rasmussen at center and Jakub Vrana at left wing. That’s likely to change as Lalonde experiments with lines during camp, but having a pair of high-octane offensive wingers in Perron and Vrana on the same line is a tantalizing prospect for the goal-starved Wings.
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“Those guys are both very dangerous players, they’re both snipers and David is a great playmaker,” Larkin said. “I think he’s going to learn pretty quick that V just needs a couple shots a game. It’s just great that we have two or three lines that can really put the puck in the net.”
Perron has the skills to add offense, but he’s committed to buying into the team defense that is vital for the Wings to establish right away.
“We want to get right to it, make sure our details in our game are right there, the staples we want to have as a team,” Perron said. “The pace, energy that we want to play with this year has to be there. Guys are excited. It was a good start today. Just the guys joining, we can see where this group is at right now, it’s ready to go in the right direction. Same thing with the coaches. That’s why all of us were excited to join the team. People had options on the table and we chose to come here and we’re excited to be here and we want to help the organization take the next step so we can compete every night and be part of the discussion to make the playoffs.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.