Nicklaus Perbix is a prospect that I’ve liked since the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted him 169th overall in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Perbix’s birthdate makes him one of the younger players in his draft class and he did not get drafted in his first year of eligibility after his junior year of high school. Perbix’s father Jay, played some college hockey, and he also has a younger brother Jack, that was a 4th round pick by the Anaheim Ducks in 2018 who is now playing at the University of Minnesota.
Perbix could have chosen to go to the USHL during his senior year of high school, but elected to wait until after he graduated to do so. He served as Captain for Elk River High during his senior year and put up 10 goals and 40 points in 25 games. He also played for Team Northwest in the UMHSEHL, a pre-season All-Star circuit for Minnesota high school players, and recorded three goals and 13 points in 21 games. He showed enough as a senior to get the attention of Lightning scouts and on to the Lightning’s draft board.
He committed to St. Cloud State University to play NCAA hockey for the 2018-19 season and spent his gap year in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers. With the Lancers, he posted four goals and 29 points in 56 games and followed that up with two assists in four playoff games.
Over three years of NCAA hockey, Perbix has put up 16 goals and 58 points in 104 games. He set new career highs last year as a junior with seven goals, 16 assists, and 23 points in 31 games. As a junior, Perbix stepped up and had more responsibility on the team and started out the season putting up nearly a point per game before cooling off in the latter part of the season.
When he was drafted, the scouting reports talked about Perbix’s high hockey IQ which has been a hallmark of Lightning draft picks. He is a big man at 6’4” and 201 pounds, but his skating is a bit of a question mark. He’s shown decent enough offensive production in NCAA, but not the kind of high end offense that would make you think he’s a sure fire NHLer. He’s also 23, and spending one more year in NCAA hockey before turning pro, so he is getting to that point of where he’ll need to quickly make it to the NHL if he’s going to.
Perbix aged out of Corey Pronman of The Athletic’s Organizational Rankings this year due to being 23 years old. However, in 2020, he listed him as having NHL Potential and likewise referenced his skating and offensive weaknesses that could limit him. I still look at Perbix as a guy that could come in and play on the right side in a couple of years on the third pair. The biggest obstacle I’m seeing is that if he makes it to the NHL, he’s likely to be a player that is very similar to Cal Foote. If Foote doesn’t progress far enough to be a solid 2nd pairing defenseman behind Erik Cernak, then Perbix could be competing with Foote for that 3rd pairing spot, which is likely Perbix’ ceiling in the NHL.
As far as player style comparable (not ceiling comparable), I’ve always looked at Perbix as being a late-career Braydon Coburn type; a big, smart defenseman that can overcome some deficiencies by using his smarts to be an effective bottom pairing defenseman.