What Can We Expect From Mathieu Perreault?


The Caps need for a center resolved itself a little when Tomas Fleischmann signed a one-year, $2.6 million contract a day before his arbitration hearing on July 27th. Couple that with George McPhee stating that he was prepared to go into the season with the team they have, and that makes it clear the Caps will look within the organization to fill their need for a much-needed pivot in the long term.

One of those options, 2009 first rounder Marcus Johansson, appears to need more time to adjust to the North American game, while 2010 first round pick Evgeny Kuznetsov needs another Russian spy swap to play out his 2-year KHL contract. That leaves “undersized, but feistyMathieu Perreault – who has had a lot of success at the AHL level with the defending Calder Cup Champions Hershey Bears.

Our question is: Will Matty P’s success in the AHL translate enough to sustain him at the NHL level?

Perreault is a quick and shifty skater who is a slick playmaker with the puck.  The Drummondville, Quebec native racked up 4 goals and 9 points in his first 21 NHL games this season.

While his lack of size may always be an issue, there is no questioning Perreault’s talent. He is potential second line centerman, whose quickness and creativity is suited greatly for the new NHL, though increased muscle mass wouldn’t hurt. (Hockey’s Future)

It seems that any review of Perreault’s play is often preceded by a form of “lacks size.” However, as Puck Prospectus correctly points out:

Small players are called “too small for the NHL” en masse, and the ones who do not pan out are held up as proof. This completely ignores the small players that do succeed in the NHL, and it completely ignores the fact that many large players don’t pan out either. Why are the hulking duds not said to be “too big for the NHL”? It’s a post-hoc rationalization; if a small player doesn’t succeed in the NHL, his size is used as a reason. But the professionals are unable to predict it before the fact.

Physical presence will always be an issue for Perreault – fairly or not. If we look at performance as an equation of Ability * Opportunity, this fact alone could reduce Perreault to a part time 3rd line center who eventually becomes a career AHLer. Also, if we observe Perry’s last 13 games in the NHL, an argument could be made that he was physically drained from going against bigger competition.

Looking at his AHL & NHL contributions we can draw some more conclusions.

Season    Age Team  Lg   GP  G   A   PTS
2008-09    21 HBH   AHL  77  11  39  50
2009-10    22 HBH   AHL  56  16  34  50
2009-10    22 WSH   NHL  21   4   5   9

What we see is Perreault’s Points Per Game drop from .75 during his two years in Hershey to .43 at the NHL level (~42% drop) while his even strength goals per game staying relatively constant (15 ES Goals in 133 AHL games vs. 3 in 21 games at NHL level). Based on Behind The Net’s study of league difficulty for the largest NHL feeder leagues, retaining 44% of AHL production to the NHL level is what one should expect.  Therefore, Perreault is at the average.

This would land Perry somewhere between 27 – 35 points for an 82 game NHL schedule in his second year, similar to the sophomore seasons of Peter Regin, Antoine Vermette, Alex Steen and David Backes. Third line centers – sure. Second line pivots for a Cup caliber team? Not likely.

Plus, since Perreault would be moving from Hershey’s 2nd line with some PP time to mostly 3rd line play in the NHL, his numbers could take even more of a hit. For instance, it won’t be often he gets to start in the offensive zone more than any other pivot except for Nicklas Backstrom against pretty weak competition.

Mathieu did make the most of his line time last year with Eric Fehr however, causing a 12% jump in Fehr’s CORSI when they were together on the ice. Making a scoring threat like Fehr better in regards to puck possession is certainly a step towards being a legitimate NHL talent. But looking at some comparables to Perreault based on his first season tempers those expectations a bit:

  1. Jeff Taffe scored .90 Pts per game first two years in AHL which translated to 7 seasons at the NHL level, playing 174 games tallying 44 points – for his career.
  2. Riku Haul scored .46 Pts per game first two years in AHL only to have that shrink to .14 per game at the NHL level. He played a total of 92 NHL games in three years.
  3. Players like Benn Ferriero (.86 Pts/Gm in AHL -> .14 in NHL) , Andreas Thuresson (.4o -> .14) and Brad Marchand (.81 -> .05) all saw their production dwindle in their NHL debut seasons.

The fact that Perreault can forecheck and has shown spurts of being able to play “bigger” (6 points in his first 8 NHL games) says he probably has more upside than those with similar stats – even causing some to compare him to “late bloomers” like Marty St. Louis or Danny Briere. It’s worth noting though, that both of those players dominated AHL competition to a much greater degree than Perreault. St. Louis averaged 1.2 points per game in the AHL while Briere averaged 1.28 points per game – showing us a much higher ceiling for production than Perreault.

As you can see, the arguments for and against Matty P’s success in the NHL are both with merit. On one hand, we have an AHL scorer with some upside who makes a legitimate NHL threat like Eric Fehr better when they are paired. On the other we have an undersized 6th round pick (a 2nd rounder has less than a 30% chance to develop into a player who will play at least 150 games) who’s scoring droughts will be blamed for being physically unable to compete at the NHL level.

So that’s where you guys come in.  Where do you stand?  Are the stats simply against Perreault becoming a long or short term solution at center or will he be the next Marty St. Louis or Danny Briere? Let us know in the comments.

  • GotSparkly

    I think the answer to this question can only be “only time will tell”. What this article really does is suggest that it would be kind of stupid to not at least give him a shot.

  • Perry could be compared to Chris Bourque with his size (one of the big reasons he [Bourque] is not in the NHL), but Perry has the speed. He also works well with his BFF Bouchard. If those two come up and play on the same line some time in the future that would be huge for the caps.

  • jordandc

    What a lot of people don’t consider when they write about players being “too small for the physical NHL” is how comparatively poor the refereeing is at the AHL level.. and the higher number of sideshow goons that exist at the AHL level. Perreault has to deal with getting pushed around, hooked and held being the play a lot more in the minors than he will in the NHL, where there exists a two-referee system and significantly less players whose sole purpose it to scrap and be otherwise unpleasant to their more skilled counterparts.

  • Tim

    Perrault could make it as the 3rd line center this season. Put him between Fehr and Chimera/Bradley, and I think they will produce. Perrault is a good playmaker, who can set up a big guy with hands like Fehr. Hopefully, he can stay in that role for a while to come – he has the talent. He just needs consistency.

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  • Matty P. is a great energy line guy. I’d definitely agree with putting him on a line with Fehr and Chimera or Bradley, with the latter being able to defend him, should the need arise. 🙂 He’s so fast and sneaky that I’d like to see him get a fair shake in the NHL. He wouldn’t be the smallest guy out there by a long shot.

  • DPSisler

    I am glad the GMGM did not go out and make huge deals this off season. I think that it shows class within the Caps organization that the Caps mgmt is willing to give the AHLers a legit shot at competing for spots on the NHL team. I am rooting for Matty to grab the 3rd line center. He is quick and when I saw him last season, he did make some nice plays. He definitely deserves the chance to make it, and I hope that he does.

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  • Бойтесь 8!

    I’d be interested to see production per ice time for Perrault. When he’s been with the Caps my guess is he’s been on the ice a lot less than in Hershey. As he gets more ice time in the NHL under his belt, he may start getting more ice time per game and then we’ll see if the production goes up.

  • congero

    He has earned a long look this year. Give him six to eight weeks minimum to start the season on the third line and asses from there. It will depend on how Johson is developing in Hershey. If he is exceeding expectations, give him a shot on the second line and see if he rises to the occasion. He seems like a guy who like to be challenged. It he falls short, flip him and Johson back and forth and see what happens. Should be a fun year to watch the new talent develop.

  • Duncan

    What other good small players are in the league right now?

  • Tim

    Duncan – St. Louis and Briere are the first two who come to mind.

    #9 (can’t figure out how to do your name, sorry) – Perreault had from 8:41-14:56 TOI, with his TOI/G being 11:21. He had 5 games under 10 minutes TOI, and 5 games over 13 minutes TOI – with 11 games from 10-13 minutes TOI. If you want the link with the stats – http://www.nhl.com/ice/player.htm?id=8473618&view=log&season=20092010

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