Whirlwind year ends in commitment, draft for Perry
July 9, 2014
By Chris Hansen
As the old saying goes, a lot of things can happen in just eight months. Alright, so maybe it's not really an old saying at all and the part about eight months isn't exactly true of just anybody. But it certainly is for one Chase Perry, who in the brief span of only 282 days went from understudy to number one goaltender on his junior hockey club, signed a scholarship award to a Division 1 college and was selected in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
It all began back on September 19th of 2013, when the 6-foot-2 191-pound North Dakota native assumed his position in the blue paint as a starter for the first time with the NAHL's Wenatchee Wild at the league's annual Showcase Tournament to open the season.
And on that late summer evening at an indoor pond only 10 minutes away from where he played high school hockey, Perry notched his first victory as a member of the junior ranks. Against the Minnesota Wilderness, he turned aside 26-of-27 shots through the game's first 65 minutes and went on to stop 4-of-6 during the shootout, all at the tender age of 17 years and 222 days.
From there, Perry went on to prevail in two of his next three starts as well, including his first of two shutouts on the season in Minot, North Dakota on October 4th against the Tauros.
It was an auspicious start to a season that also featured it's share of ups and downs. Through all of the highs and lows however, Perry's humble confidence and steady determination won out, as he learned from his mistakes and reveled respectfully at his successes. It's an attitude and a culture that is unmistakable about both the player and the person Perry is, and he credits his father for much of what he has learned about being both.
By late January, with Perry still a couple of weeks shy of turning 18, the departure of his 20-year-old teammate and fellow netminder Gustaf Johansson, allowed him to take over the reigns for the remainder of the season as the club's number one goaltender.
Perry's initial stretch as the Wild's go-to-guy between the pipes went phenomenally well and saw him win four of his first five starts, including a three-game sweep on the road over the rival Kenai River Brown Bears, during which he halted 81-of-88 shots over 190 minutes and denied 7-of-9 overall in consecutive shootout victories to open the series.
After the season, Perry said that working with Wenatchee Wild Associate Coach Chris Clark was one of the biggest reasons that he was ready for the challenge of being a number one goaltender at such a young age and thanked "Clarkie" for being there when he needed him the most.
With Perry and his club performing well beyond the expectations of many at season's outset and gearing up for the playoff stretch, there were still plenty more bright spots ahead for the young netminder. Including on March 16th when Perry announced his commitment to Division 1 Colorado College for the 2014-2015 season. He would later reveal that his conversations with the school went as far back as late September at the Showcase Tournament, and that his selection of Colorado College was one that disappointed many other programs that were interested.
Perry finished the regular season with a record of 15-12-2-4, a goals against average of 2.34 and a save percentage of .905, and in the postseason, he proved enormously important to the Wild's success, carrying his teammates on a sturdy back that had only known adulthood for barely two months.
During the first round of the playoffs, Perry squared off with the team he had garnered his first junior hockey victory against at the start of the season, the Minnesota Wilderness. And once again, he and his teammates came up a winner, this time in five games that included a 1-to-nothing overtime thriller in the deciding contest at Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee. It was Perry's second skunking of Minnesota in the series, and required no fewer than 48 saves to complete.
Perry was sparkling in that contest and throughout the divisional semi-finals, and during the ensuing Midwest Division Finals, Perry was equally brilliantine. Grabbing his third shutout of the postseason in game one & and helping to extend the series to a fifth game with a 42 save triple overtime victory in game four. He again performed incredibly well in that winner-take-all game five the following night, but unfortunately came up on the short end of a 3-to-2 decision in overtime.
Although the season ended in disappointment for Perry and the Wild, there was no doubt that it had been a fantastic campaign for both. And as the off-season moved officially into summer, fans of the team and the game itself waited eagerly for the annual NHL Entry Draft.
Insiders had long since pegged Perry as a potential selection during those proceedings, but many were unable to say with any degree of confidence just where numerically he might find his way onto the draft board or which club might choose him.
That question was happily answered on June 28th, when one of hockey's original six franchises, the Detroit Red Wings, selected Perry as the 16th pick in the fifth round at 136th overall. Oddly enough, the move came as a bit of a surprise to Perry, who had spoken with no less than 13 different professional teams at the scouting combine, but Detroit wasn't one of them.
Perry said it was a dream come true to be selected and that he has never been to Joe Louis Arena before, but looks forward to seeing it one day soon for an NHL debut we all hope is much like the one he had in Blaine, Minnesota back in late September of last year with the Wenatchee Wild.