Perreault proving to be a perfect fit with Caps

by Dan Rosen ||

Mathieu Perreault‘s hands were shaking as he put the phone down. He was out to lunch with his teammate and roommate, Francois Bouchard, when he got the call from Hershey Bears GM Doug Yingst.

Yingst told Perreault his dream was coming true, he was going up to the big club in Washington.

It was two days before the Capitals’ next game in New Jersey, where the diminutive Perreault would make his NHL debut on Nov. 4. There, he found his way onto the scoresheet with a pair of assists and ever since has been impressing both coach Bruce Boudreau and GM George McPhee.

With injuries to Alex Ovechkin, Mike Knuble and Boyd Gordon, the Capitals don’t have to worry about what to do with Perreault right now. But if he keeps up his solid play — he has 2 goals, 3 assists and a plus-5 rating in six games — he might just be in D.C. to stay.

"They haven’t really talked to me much, but I know they are pretty happy if they keep playing me," Perreault, who is averaging 11 minutes a night, told before scoring his second NHL goal Saturday against the Devils. "I know Boudreau likes guys who compete hard and that’s what I try to do every game."

Perreault, though, didn’t come to the NHL with wide eyes and a shy grin.

"No, I felt like I was able to play here because I played some exhibition games," Perreault said. "When we played Chicago they had pretty much their whole team and I was able to play. So, no, I don’t try to get impressed by the guys. I just do my thing, do what I do."

What he does is play a fast, hard-nosed, offensive game. It seems to fit perfectly with the slick-skating and high-scoring Capitals.

"He’s a good player and wants to stay, so he’s doing everything right," Boudreau said. "Whether he agrees with the philosophy or not, if I play in the minors and I get a chance to come up and coach wants me to play a certain way, I’m doing whatever it takes to stay up here. He’s doing a very good job so far."

Perreault is generously listed as 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds. His size has clearly dogged him his entire career, which is why he idolizes guys like Martin St. Louis and Danny Briere, a pair of smallish French-Canadian forwards who have made it big in the NHL.

"A lot of guys didn’t believe in me because I was too small," Perreault said.

Perreault said it started when he was 10-years-old. He has always been the smallest player on his team, but it hasn’t stopped him.

He was named the MVP of the QMJHL in 2006-07, when he scored 119 points in 67 games for Acadie-Bathurst. He led the QMJHL with 114 points and 80 assists in 65 games during the 2007-08 season.

Last season in Hershey, Perreault’s first as a pro, he led all AHL rookies with 50 points and 39 assists in 77 games. He had seven points in 11 games with the Bears before getting called up to Washington earlier this month.

"Starting in junior, I didn’t get drafted because I was too small. I got drafted the second year," Perreault said. "Even in the NHL I was a sixth-rounder probably because of my size, I would think. But once you’re here and you do the job, everything is good."

Like most small forwards, Perreault can actually use his size to an advantage.

"He’s just so shifty that you can’t really catch him, so the size isn’t much of a factor," Capitals winger Eric Fehr, who was playing with Perreault until Saturday, told "He manages to sneak out of different situations."

"If he’s an easy guy to check he’s in trouble," Boudreau added. "He ain’t a big boy."

Fehr said Perreault is fun to play with because he’s always in the play.

"Centermen are usually behind the play trying to catch up, but he seems to be leading the rush and the forecheck," Fehr said. "He’s a hard-worker and he’s a great guy to play with."

Perreault is not shy, but he tries to stay quiet so he doesn’t get in anyone’s way. He also wants to be able to see what being an NHL player is all about. The Capitals, though, are a young team so they don’t let the kid go at it alone.

"The guys have been really good to me, talking to me and showing me around," he said. "These guys are all carrying me around, texting or calling me and asking me to come with them."

Perreault keeps up with the Bears by either texting or talking to Bouchard every day. He knows he might end up back in Hershey at some point this season, but he’s starting to figure out that maybe it’s actually up to him and not Boudreau or McPhee.

If he continues to play well, Washington may have no choice but to keep him up.

"I still have my place (in Hershey) and Francois is my roommate, but it’s too good here," Perreault said. "It’s too good."