Rangers’ Gabe Perreault draws Cole Caufield comparison from NHL Network analyst

Gabe Perreault
Gabe Perreault (Photo Credit: BC Athletics)

Gabe Perreault made quite the impression at the 2024 World Junior Championship in Sweden. So much so that NHL Network analyst Dave Starman compared the New York Rangers prospect to one of the top young guns in the NHL.

“Perreault reminds me a little of Cole Caufield in that he’s got the ability to creatively disappear. Not hide but he can disappear for a second then emerge in a spot where he’s really valuable,” Starman told Forever Blueshirts. “It’s that hockey IQ of finding threatening open ice that sets guys like Perreault and Caufield apart.

“And make no mistake, Perreault has an excellent hockey IQ.”

The Rangers certainly should be pleased with that comparison between their first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and the 23-year-old Montreal Canadiens forward. Caufield has scored 20+ goals in each of his first two NHL seasons and has 67 goals and 117 points in 167 games with the Canadiens.

Like Perreault, Caufield was born in the United States, played in the U.S. National Development Program, starred in the NCAA and helped the U.S. win gold at the World Juniors.

But Caufield didn’t put up the numbers Perreault did at the WJC. Perreault tied for second on the United States and fourth overall in tournament scoring with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in seven games when the U.S. captured gold two weeks ago. Caufield had five points (two goals, three assists) when he helped the U.S. win the gold medal in 2021.

“He’s a player,” Starman said about Perreault, who had three points in the gold-medal game against Sweden and three in the quarterfinals against Latvia.

Starman, who worked the broadcasts for each of the seven games played by the United States at the 2024 WJC and also covers the NCAA, shared his thoughts about Perreault and two other Rangers prospects – U.S. defenseman Drew Fortescue and Slovakia forward Adam Sykora – in a Q&A with Forever Blueshirts.

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NHL Network analyst Dave Starman discusses Rangers prospects at 2024 WJC

This high hockey IQ you talk about, is that what makes Gabe Perreault a special player?

“Here’s where Perreault has an advantage over a lot of other younger players, it’s how smart he is. He’s got a great ability to find open ice when he doesn’t have the puck and find good open ice. He doesn’t just put himself in a place just to get open, he puts himself in a place where he can be a threat, and there’s a skill to that. That excellent hockey IQ is what sets him apart.”

What else did you see from Perreault at the World Juniors and his first season at Boston College?

“He’s got an excellent delivery to the net. He doesn’t mind playing in hard areas, which is a credit to him as a smaller guy (5-foot-11, 165 pounds). He’s got an explosive 1-2-3 step so that he can get some separation with the puck on his stick, which I think is a very unique skill, and he’s got a pretty good release. On the offensive side, he’s got a lot working for him.

“He’s competitive. He’s just a player. I think he can play in a lot of different places in your lineup, preferably with skill guys. But the one thing about him is that he’s a skill guy that makes other players better. He’s really comfortable being really good and he’s also comfortable playing with players that are really good. That’s not always the case.”

It seemed that Perreault struggled at times defensively during the WJC. What do you think of his defensive game?

“Defensively, I trusted him. The more I watched his shifts, the more I realized he definitely understands what defensive zone coverage is. Thing is, he plays with two other players in the program (Will Smith and Ryan Leonard) where they always have the puck. Now they’re (linemates) at BC and always have the puck. So, he hasn’t had to defend a lot in the past three years. But I think when you look at his play away from the puck in his own end, he’s good enough that he won’t have that tough a time adjusting it when it gets real (in the NHL).”

What did you see from defenseman Drew Fortescue, New York’s third-round pick in 2023 who had four points (one goal, three assists) at the 2024 World Juniors?

“I like Fortsecue. He strikes me as a really good second-pair guy. He can play with length. He can play with some bite in his game. He’s got really good vision. I think he’s got pretty good mobility. I just felt like when the U.S. needed a good solid shift, he gave them one. We didn’t call his name a lot, for the right reasons. All the little things you don’t hear about because they’re not sexy, he can do. I think he’s on the right track.”

Fortescue is playing at Boston College under coach Greg Brown, the former NHL defenseman and Rangers assistant coach. How big is that for the 18-year-old?

“Best thing for Fortescue? He’s got Greg Brown as his coach and Greg Brown develops defensemen as well as anyone in the NCAA has in the past 20 years.”

Adam Sykora, the Rangers’ second-round pick in the 2022 draft, was captain for Slovakia at the WJC. They didn’t earn a medal, but what did you think of Sykora’s play?

“I didn’t see a ton of Sykora, but I found him to be electric with the puck at times. He definitely drove his line. Good scoring ability. He’s got a little sandpaper to him. I just found him to be a really effective player. He’s one of those guys when he’s on the ice, the puck just seems to find him and he finds a way to make a play. I like him.”

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny