BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
In four short years, Class of 2014 Suffern High School alum, Nick Perri, has gone from a video analyst for the Suffern Mounties ice hockey team to a rising talent in the Tier II junior league ice hockey coaching ranks.
Perri was hired this May as the assistant coach for the Johnstown (PA) Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League [NAHL], America’s only Tier II junior hockey league. Last year he worked for the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League in Canada.
It was a setback to his health in high school that led Perri to focus on coaching and picking up analytical skills earlier than most. “I had some health and injury issues that stopped me from playing [hockey] and I channeled more into coaching it.”
Perri began his tenure as Johnstown assistant coach traveling around the country to tryout camps. The NAHL holds a draft every summer and the front office and coaches vet prospects to see if they’re interested in their league.
“You have to be familiar with the level of play and level of prospects you are looking for. When you are analyzing them, you have to go through the process of can this player play at this level and be familiar with the type of player,” Perri explained during an interview earlier this year.
Tier 1 junior circuit USHL develops the most highly touted prospects in the United States, some who bypass college and go straight to the NHL draft; while Tier II NAHL grooms secondary prospects most of whom first go to college. Many NAHL players go on to play minor league hockey and over 70 have made it all the way to the NHL, including future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane of the Chicago Black Hawks and All-Star Phil Kessel of the Pittsburg Penguins.
The franchise is a big draw in Johnstown, where their hockey tradition is cemented in Hollywood immortality. The celebrated sports comedy “Slapshot” was filmed there, and Perri now coaches on the same bench the fictional but legendary Charlestown Chiefs played.
“I don’t think there’s anything in junior hockey that compares to it,” Perri said. “It has a historical feel… It’s a dream job. An absolute honor.”
As for where this all leads, Perri said, “I’d love to one day work in the National Hockey League, but I am realistic. I know there’s a lot of work that needs to be put in before I get there and I plan to be at Johnstown a long time.”
Tomahawks head coach Mike Letizia praised the hire of Perri this spring. “I am very excited to bring Nick onto our staff…He has an incredible passion for the game and the development of players, and he is extremely knowledgeable about recruiting, video instruction, and his attention to detail.”
Tomahawks executive, Jean Desrochers, says Perri’s early career course is auspicious. “As a coach, Nick is moving up the hockey ladder really quick due to his incredible hockey knowledge and analytics skills.”
Two months into the new season, it sure doesn’t seem Perri has done his team any harm. The Tomahawks currently have the best record in the NAHL [19 wins – 4 losses] and are riding a 12-game winning streak.
Perri offered credit to Suffern Mounties head coach, Rob Schelling, for promoting the sport in Rockland County.
“I want to thank Coach Schelling and the entire hockey staff and family at Suffern High School. I will always be proud to be a member of Suffern hockey family,” Perri said.
Hockey has long been Perri’s favorite pastime. “I have been on the ice everywhere I’ve gone,” he said. “My parents got me into hockey at a really early age. My dad played men’s league.”
Perri has a fiancée Nicole and a one-year-old daughter Kennedy.