Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Perron maturing into complete player

Blues winger working hard for one goal:
winning Stanley Cup for St. Louis

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When the Blues first drafted David Perron, there was evidence that they had a special talent. As a matter of fact, the Blues felt so good about the gifts the Sherbrooke, Quebec native possessed, he would need no seasoning at the junior or minor league levels.

Perron, now a seasoned veteran at the ripe old age of 22 entering his fourth season since being drafted in the first round (26th overall) in 2007, was the new wave of hockey players trying to mesh with an old-school coach (Andy Murray). The two would clash on occasion, differing in opinions on a bevy of subjects. There was a label placed on Perron that he was a gifted offensive player but one lacking an understanding in becoming a hockey player on both ends of the ice.

Perron was more dedicated and more determined than ever to prove his critics wrong.

Looking back, Perron understands where Murray came from. He even goes out of his way to voice his opinion that Murray in fact made a difference in his development. Now, Perron can fully grasp the idea for his offensive numbers to grow, there comes a time where one has to embrace a system in order to better themselves.

Playing for Davis Payne has allowed Perron to grow, and his desire to play a two-way game can only be beneficial moving forward.

Perron's offensive numbers (20 goals and 47 points a season ago) continue to climb. He went from 13 goals and 27 points his rookie season, to 15 goals and 50 points in 2008-09. And if Perron is to become one of the upper echelon players not only on the Blues but in the league as well, playing off the puck and being able to play efficiently in one's own end will help increase those numbers.

"I always thought I was pretty good in the 1 on 1 defensive battles," Perron said Tuesday. "Sometimes I think it was more in terms of positioning in the D-zone and the neutral zone. I got more comfortable with Andy in that role. Now that Payner is here, there are some different details to it, but I really think it's something I improved on.

"I want to be out there the last minute. I want to be out there for both sides of it -- to get a goal and to prevent one. If I keep working, hopefully I get the opportunity in both situations."

Payne is a stickler for getting his players to play off the puck, be positionally sound and be battle-tested in the defensive zone. He feels Perron's game is suited for that style and likes the determination and dedication a young player such as Perron has put into becoming the complete player.

"I think he's putting some real good attention into it," Payne said of Perron. "I think David is a guy who's driven and wants to be counted on as one of those next-level players. That's the work that has to go into it in order for him to get there.

"He's a guy that is a real good offensive player who's got those kind of instincts. It takes just a simple commitment for a guy to understand the defensive side of the game because in looking at a guy who's trying to attack and he's trying to defend, he knows what he's trying to do. It's one of those things where a commitment (and) a simple understanding (and) all of the sudden you've got a very skilled two-way hockey player and that's what we need all our guys to be."

Perron, who didn't take to liking hockey and becoming a rink rat until he was 14, can be found on the ice, whether it be here in St. Louis or his home in Quebec. There is a real sense of commitment there for one simple goal: winning a Stanley Cup.

Perron realizes numbers are important, but winning is the ultimate satisfaction. This is what drives his every move on the ice.

"Winning the Cup is what matters most for all of us," Perron said. "As long as I keep improving, that's my goal for every season I play. Obviously the bigger steps you take, the better. As a player, you put so much pressure on yourself to be good. I think that's how we'll find a way to win a championship. Everybody wants to get better and everybody's pushing the other guys to be on the first line, to be on the second line or power play time, penalty kill time. I had more of that last year and I want to keep improving in those areas."

Perron's teammates can see the determined effort, particularly those that are directly involved with him on the ice.

"It's easy to see just how skilled Perry is," forward Brad Boyes said recently. "It's easy for a kid coming into the league to be wide-eyed and not really grasping what's important for growth and development.

"Perry's had some challenges but we all have. You can see how much he's matured on and off the ice and he's becoming a better player for it. His goal is the same as all of ours, and that's winning. So he's willing to put in whatever work's necessary to do that. He's a terrific team player."

Perron, who lists Alexei Kovalev as his hockey hero, will typically be the first one on the ice and last one off. His deft touch, precise shots and highlight-reel moves (ask Mark Streit of the New York Islanders) come from hours of repetition day after day.

Perron understands the Blues need players like him to increase the offensive production in order for the team to succeed. That's why Perron spends countless hours mastering his skills. He craves the ice and wants to be on it as often as possible, whether it be at the beginning, middle and most importantly, the end of games.

"Obviously (Payne) wants to see me producing offensively," Perron said. "But sometimes that means you have to anticipate the play real well on both sides of the ice.

"You can see how much more ice time guys get when they play both sides of the ice. ... As a player, you always put pressure on yourself to be a contributor. My role, I want it to become bigger and bigger and that's my mindset coming into this year. I want to have some more responsibilities obviously."

Is a 30-goal season within reach for Perron? Perhaps. Improving in all areas of the game is something an 18-year-old would not focus on. But this 22-year-old has only that kind of mindset.

"I try to stay away from numbers. I want to improve," Perron said. "If it means more goals, great. If it means more points, great. If it means more hits, more blocked shots (and) stuff like that ... I think for me, I try to improve in all areas. That's something I want to keep doing.

"You want to be a guy that's counted on offensively and also defensively. I think I made some great steps in that direction in the last three years. I think it's an area I want to make an even greater (step)."

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