In the 2018 NHL Draft, the Green Bay Gamblers had two players’ names called. Demetrious Koumontzis went 108 overall to the Calgary Flames, and Jackson Perbix was named eight picks later by the Anaheim Ducks. Since Draft Day, Koumontzis has left the Gamblers to pursue an NCAA career with Arizona State University. This leaves Perbix as the sole Gambler to have been drafted.
Perbix was golfing when he got the call. “It’s crazy. I always dreamed of a call like that… I was on the fifth hole.” He now enters his first full season outside of high school and in the USHL. At 18-years-old, the University of Minnesota commit is optimistic for the future. “I’m going to play at Minnesota next year until Anaheim wants to call me up. I think there’s a chance I could play [in Anaheim’s organization] in the coming years.”
How Jackson Perbix has Shaped Since the 2018 Draft Day
Benn Kerr gave a very brief but accurate look into Perbix’s play in his 2018 NHL Draft Grades article. Kerr said that Perbix was a very hard-working forward but needs to work on his skating. That perfectly describes Perbix’s game, usually, save for Saturday’s game against the Central Illinois Flying Aces.
The game quickly turned physical, as arguing after the whistle in the first period turned into big hits and cheap jabs in the second, and a fight in the third. Perbix saw a moderate amount of ice time being rostered as the team’s third-line right winger. He was also featured in Green Bay’s power-play.
Throughout the game, Perbix did a fairly good job of living up to the expectations fans have. He didn’t score but had some great chances. He seemed slightly out of place in the team’s playbook, though. Instead of harnessing what undoubtedly is a hard shot and great passing, the Gamblers often rotated Perbix between the low slot and corner. Against a Flying Aces team that seemed to ignore the Gamblers defensemen in favour of guarding the low-slot more, this gameplan was less than ideal. This largely contributed to the team’s lack of opportunities throughout the game.
What chances they did get came off of fast breaks, including a two-on-one that Perbix nearly scored on. On a half-shot, half-pass, the puck skittered off of Perbix’s stick and through the Aces goalie, Ryan Snowden‘s, legs. It was slowly headed into the net until an Aces player pulled it off of the goal line and iced it. There was a similar chance earlier in the second period when Perbix made a pass to a crowded front of the net. Snowden made a very impressive save on the backdoor shot, sprawling across the crease to bat the puck away with his glove at the last second.
This carried into the third period. Perbix went up a gear to end the game. Head coach Pat Mikesch, a former USHL player and a highly touted coach around the league, must’ve said some inspirational words in the locker room during the second intermission. The Gamblers came out in the third with a much faster and aggressive style of play. This was best exemplified by Perbix. It seemed like he was let off his leash a bit, as he created multiple fast breaks and scoring chances.
This nearly included two breakaways. Both were ultimately shut down when Perbix tried passing through an Aces player that was backchecking. Still, his fast stick and even faster hands opened up the ice for him on two opportunities in the third.
It posed the question, though, why is Perbix passing on these plays? During the latter of the two, Perbix was carrying the puck down the far-side boards. He was quickly caught up to by both a teammate and an Aces defenseman. As the three entered the offensive zone, Perbix turned his hips and tried to center the puck as opposed to working further down the boards. This makes sense in some ways, the defenseman was closing in on Perbix and forcing him to the boards, but still even dumping in the puck would’ve worked better.
That highlights Perbix’s biggest weakness on Saturday night. In a game where his team needed a goal, he seemed restrained and hesitant with the puck. He scored 19 goals and 61 points in 61 games in Minnesota’s high school hockey last year. Another 28 points came in 17 games as apart of the Upper Midwest Elite League. When high school hockey ended, Perbix was called up to the USHL. In 17 games last season, he scored another four points. He clearly has the ability to produce but wasn’t able to on Saturday.
It made me think that part of it was his mentality. Perbix harnessing an amazing passing ability, but in Saturday’s game, he was almost overtaken by the ‘pass-first’ mentality. He only recorded one shot. It wasn’t clear whether this was by his own volition or that of the team’s playbook, but one would assume he could’ve afforded a few more shooting attempts.
When asked, Perbix was very simple about what he thinks he needs to work on. “I need to hit the weight room,” he said. He’s not wrong, as he stands at 6-foot-1 but only 174 pounds. In what was a very physical game on Saturday, he seemed to fare away from any conflict. Bulking up would probably make Perbix a bit more confident in his physical abilities. It’d also add a bit of strength to every aspect of his game, including his skating. This isn’t crazy important right now, but if he wants to get to the next level it’ll have to be done.
On the flip side of the coin is Perbix’s strengths. Obviously, being an NHL draftee, he plays some very strong hockey. He attributed getting drafted mostly to his passing ability. “It’s my vision,” he said. “I can see things other players can’t see. I think that’s why I got drafted.”
He’s not wrong. His passing is easily the highlight of his game. Throughout all of the leagues Perbix played in last season, he scored 65 assists in 59 games. All five of the points he’s recorded so far this year were also assists. Going by his numbers, he’s easily one of the better playmakers in the league. He did a great job of making countless opportunities for his team on Saturday and could’ve easily added a few more assists to those totals.
Perbix also said his skating was another very strong part of his game, saying he can keep up with anyone else on the ice. While his speed isn’t something to worry about, his skating really shined through with his edgework. He showed a lot of strength in his cutting and cross-overs. This was the strongest part of his skating and was the biggest reason he was able to move up the ice fast.
His skating also didn’t slow down much with the puck on his stick. He still whizzed around the offensive zone when he was carrying the puck, with his head up looking for an open man. This is a great thing to see in a young player and added a lot to his playmaking style of play.
The best part of Perbix’s skating was his potential. He showed off a strong first step and great form while skating. If he works hard enough at the craft, he could become a lightning-fast player. Combined with great edgework and a keen playmaking ability, this would be the trait that makes Perbix elite
The strengths in his skating all amount to a very high level of confidence in his play. At this level, it’s not the easiest to remain poised throughout the whole game. Perbix has no issue with this, though. When the puck was on his stick, it brought out a new level to his game. He had his head up and was constantly scanning the ice and dodging players. In the third period of Saturday’s game, the Gamblers saw a lot of issues with their breakout of the defensive end of the ice. This was unless Perbix was on the ice. If he was, he was able to find great positioning and headman the breakout. He also had no problem carrying the puck through the neutral zone and into the attacking end.
In short, Perbix seemed much more confident with the puck than any other player on the ice Saturday night.
Perbix said he thinks he could make a jump into AHL or NHL play in the coming years if he keeps improving. This includes bulking up and working to flush out his already strong game. If he can become an even better skater and move into a more flattering gameplan, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Perbix suit up in the AHL by the time he’s 20. Very strong playmaking ability and uncanny confidence on the ice combine to give Perbix a lot of upsides as he moves closer to the NHL. Only time will tell, but it definitely seems like he could eventually become a fighting name for an NHL roster spot.
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