Call David Perron the NHL’s answer to Mystique, a scoring shapeshifter who finds a way to produce even when it seems like every break is going against him.
People might not think of Perron when they ponder the most resilient scorers in the NHL, but maybe they should. The 31-year-old is off to a hot start with the St. Louis Blues this season, generating three goals and two assists for five points in four games.
Maybe he might even play well enough to stay a while?
If you want to capture Perron’s zig-zagging NHL path, consider this note from The Athletic’s Scott Burnside in a May article (sub required): Perron has only signed contracts with one NHL team (The Blues), yet he’s played for five NHL teams overall.
Not that long after making a surprisingly quick jump to the NHL after being the 26th pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, Perron saw his early career derailed by concussion issues. Eventually, things really started to get bumpy for him during the summer of 2013, and things only settled down for Perron just recently. Consider this timeline:
- Exploded with a career-high 28 goals in 2013-14, his first season with the Edmonton Oilers after being involved in a trade that also included Ivan Barbashev.
- That hot start to his Oilers career may have set expectations too high. In typical Oilers fashion, Perron was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins after a cold start to 2014-15 (Perron’s shooting percentage was at 6.8 before joining the Pens).
- For whatever reason, Perron never really clicked with Pittsburgh. He was eventually traded to the Anaheim Ducks in 2015-16, which Perron described to Burnside as a rock-bottom moment.
- Whereas a player with less will and skill might have found a career going down the drain, Perron got back on track. He generated 20 points in his 28 games with the Ducks to close out 2015-16.
- The Blues came calling again for 2016-17, and the occasionally injury-challenged Perron managed to play all 82 regular-season games. Back to normal, right? Not exactly …
- The Vegas Golden Knights made Perron their Blues selection during the expansion draft, bringing upheaval to Perron’s career yet again. Despite Perron managing 66 points in just 70 games in 2017-18, the slick stickhandler fell out of favor a bit toward the end of his Vegas stay, including a bumpy postseason.
- Once again, the Blues signed Perron for 2018-19. He managed an impressive 23 goals and 23 assists for 46 points despite being limited to 57 games played, then scored 16 points in 26 playoff games to help the Blues win their first-ever Stanley Cup.
Blues broadcaster Darren Pang remarked to Burnside that Perron’s course through the league might just be one-of-a-kind.
“It’s actually quite amazing; it’s a unique story,” Pang said in May. “I don’t think you’re ever going to see anything like it again. I really don’t.”
Even Perron’s path to the QMJHL wasn’t exactly a straight line, so maybe he’s simply been accustomed to having to prove himself over and over again?
This isn’t just about a player who’s become an unusually productive journeyman, either. It’s been remarkable to see how versatile Perron is, as he’s been able to adapt to different circumstances, shifting his style to whatever works best for his linemates and teams.
During that wild 2017-18 season with the Golden Knights, Perron was more of a facilitator and playmaker, with 50 of his 66 points in 70 games being assists. When Perron returned to the Blues last season, he ramped up his sniping, managing that impressive 23 goals in just 57 games on a scorching 20.5 shooting percentage. If you prorate that over an 82-game season, that would have meant 32-33 goals for Perron.
It’s all a testament to not just Perron’s skill and Swiss Army Knife scoring, but also tenacity. There were multiple times where he could have sulked and watched his production plummet, yet Perron consistently made lemonade out of professional lemons. It’s pretty inspiring.
Here’s hoping that Perron doesn’t have to endure another career upheaval during Seattle’s expansion draft (a no-trade clause should help), but chances are, Perron would make it work. Maybe his Seattle transformation would involve Perron becoming a shutdown forward?
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.