Walleye forward Brett Perlini has experienced his share of high moments in his hockey career and that helps put Toledo’s current struggles in perspective for the young player.
Perlini, a second-year pro, was picked by Anaheim in the 2010 NHL draft. Perlini was a sophomore at Michigan State University at the time. He also earned the most valuable player award for the Spartans at the prestigious Great Lakes Invitational tournament in 2009.
Perlini, 23, said he remains upbeat despite the Walleye’s current three-game losing streak and position in last place.
“It’s always fun going to the rink no matter what,” Perlini said. “I play the game I love for a living. I think about that a lot, and I feel blessed.”
Perlini, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, played in 123 games at Michigan State and had 36 goals with 40 assists. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward led the Spartans in scoring with 18 goals in 2010-11.
“It was a blast,” Perlini said. “I had so much fun, and I learned a lot. When we won the GLI, it was a sellout crowd at The Joe [Joe Louis Arena]. It’s hard to re-create that atmosphere and how loud that building was.”
Perlini said he thought he might be drafted in 2009 when he was rated in the top 150 among 18-year olds. But he did not, and so he did not pay attention to the draft the next season.
“I was in Michigan golfing. I had my Canadian phone on me, so I could not receive any calls or texts,” Perlini said. “My agent called the course. But I didn’t know until I was done with my round. That’s when I found out I’d been picked. I called him [on the clubhouse phone], and he had the good news.”
Perlini was acquired by the Walleye in a trade with Greenville on Dec. 30. Perlini has five points with three goals and two assists in 22 games with Toledo.
Walleye coach Dan Watson said Perlini has good speed and uses it well.
“He protects pucks well,” Watson said. “He plays in the really hard to play areas. Before we didn’t give him an opportunity to show what he had. He was a 10th forward. Now he is getting the opportunity and is showing the type of player I’m sure Michigan State fans saw.”
Perlini is among a total of 45 players who have suited up for the Walleye because of trades, call ups, and injuries this season. A recent influx of rookies who have been signed right out of college by the team continues a trend of roster uncertainty for the Walleye.
“It is difficult,” Perlini said. “But it’s something you learn to deal with. You won’t be playing with the same guys day in and day out. The important thing is to try to make the other guys better. You talk to guys and find out their tendencies.”
The Walleye (18-37-4) are suffering through an historically bad season. The team’s current winning percentage is just .339.
The low point in the Toledo Storm’s 16-year history was in the 1999-2000 season. The team went 22-41-7 for a winning percentage of .364.
The worst season in the Goaldiggers’ history came in that team’s last season of existence. In 1985-86, the team was 24-48-10 for a .354 winning percentage.
The Hornets posted a 17-44-11 record in 1970-71 for a .313 percentage. The Blades went 20-48-2 in 1965-66 for a .300 winning percentage.
The Mercurys finished with the worst season in Toledo hockey history. The team had a .257 winning percentage (17-50-1) in 1961-62.
Perlini played for the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors last season when the team finished last in the Western Conference with a 22-44-6 record (.347).
“It’s tough losing. I went through the same thing in Bakersfield,” he said.,” Perlini said. “You just have to play hard and not let the results go to your heart and get down on yourself. That won’t make anything better.”
Perlini said the team’s current 11-game losing streak at home is particularly difficult.
“We have the best fans in the league,” he said. “We have a losing record, and we’re still selling out. It’s incredible playing [at the Huntington Center], but we can’t seem to find a win. That is one of the biggest disappointments.”
Perlini said the team just needs one game to go its way.
“That changes a lot of the mind-set,” he said.
Perlini said he and his teammates still have plenty to play for.
“A lot of us are playing for a contract for next year or to get called up at the end of year when [American Hockey League] teams are looking for players,” he said.
Perlini, who became an unrestricted free agent in 2012, said he believes his overall skill set is strong.
“I have good quickness,” he said. “I like to shoot the puck and try to make plays. I try to make my linemates better. I’ve been pretty successful offensively. But I’m also working hard on my two-way game. I want to be a complete player.”
Perlini’s uncle Kevin Conway played two seasons in Toledo with the Goaldiggers in the mid-1980s.
“When he heard I was going to Toledo, he was pretty excited for me,” Perlini said. “He said it’s a lot different now. But he loved it here. He said it’s a great city.”
Perlini’s father, Fred, played in eight games in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“He’s been huge,” the younger Perlini said. “It’s great to have someone who has played in the NHL and has good advice. He taught me everything I know.”
with Brett Perlini
■ Position: Forward
■ Jersey Number: 11
■ Ht./ Wt.: 6-2, 195
■ Birthplace: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario,
■ Age: 23
■ Favorite way to spend time away from the rink: Golf.
■ Hockey players you admired growing up: Wayne Gretzky. He was always my idol.
■ Favorite sport other than hockey: I still play golf, tennis, and soccer in the summer.
■ Favorite type of music: I like all kinds. Electronic dance. Anything Top 40 and Country.
■ Favorite meal? Steak and sweet potato
■ Have you ever eaten walleye? I've caught a few too. I absolutely love it.
■ Favorite beverage: Coconut water. It's really good after games for hydration.
■ Best fast food: I try to stay away, but Wendy's.
■ Favorite movie: The Dark Knight
■ Favorite TV Show: Entourage
■ Favorite video game: FIFA
■ Do you have a Twitter account? @brettperlini
■ Person you most admire: Dad (Fred)
■ If you could meet any person who would it be? Bobby Orr
■ Favorite place you've been to? Stockholm, Sweden
■ Top sports moment: Split between winning the GLI MVP in 2009 and getting drafted.
■ What's your hockey superstition before games? I say it's a routine. I do the same things every time.
■ Have you lost any teeth while playing? Last year I broke my jaw but didn't lose any teeth. My jaw was wired shut for eight weeks and all I had were liquids and chicken broth.
■ Nickname: Pearls
■ Something nobody knows about you: I grew up England. My first 10 years I lived about 30 minutes south of London. My dad played pro hockey there.