DETROIT -- Corey Perry has become one hell of a hockey player.
Now, that may seem like an odd statement considering everything Perry's done. The Anaheim Ducks' forward and former London Knight is a Memorial Cup winner, world junior champion and Stanley Cup winner.
But he has the disadvantage -- or advantage depending on your point of view -- of playing in the west coast. He doesn't quite get the exposure some of the top players in the league get who play in the hockey-centric central and eastern time zones.
But when playoffs come around and you get a chance to watch him game in and game out, the young man from Peterborough is always in the middle of what's happening on the ice.
The more you watch him, the more you appreciate how good he really is.
His Ducks are in the middle of their NHL Western Conference semifinal series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
The series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 in Anaheim tomorrow night.
Some hockey observers would register shock that the Ducks are where they are in the playoffs. As the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, they knocked off the No.1-seeded San Jose Sharks. Now they are wrestled the home-ice advantage away from the No.2-seeded Wings.
If the Ducks continue to play the way they have, the shock will wear off quickly.
The first two games of the Wings/Ducks series have been terrific entertainment. It's just the latest in whatıs been a series of top-notch playoff entertainment. This may sound like an advertisement for the NHL but it has been a number of years since there's been this kind of playoff buzz.
There are upsets, close series and more nastiness than in recent years.
So far, the NHL has hit the jackpot and the Ducks are a big part of it.
"Weıve come together at the right time," Perry said after the Ducks 4-3 triple-overtime win in Detroit. "Itıs a nice feeling to be in a room like this where everyone comes together and plays like this." Perry is at the centre of the Ducks early-round playoff successes.
He plays on a line with two other young stars, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.
Some hockey pundits have tabbed them the best line in hockey right now.
You may get an argument that there are other good lines in hockey right now but it would be hard to argue there are any better.
On Sunday, Getzlaf and Perry logged more than 38 minutes of ice. Ryan, who was taken off that line for a time, logged 32. Getzlaf had a goal and two assists. Perry added two assists.
They bring a combination of finesse, power and tenacity to the game.
Perry was a top junior hockey player. Even though he was drafted late in the first round by the Ducks, there were questions about whether he could play the way he played in junior hockey in the pros and survive.
He wasn't the biggest guy around and no one was sure whether he could parlay his slick puckhanding style successfully in the pros without getting his head taken off.
No one is questioning any of that now. Perry is doing it all with the Ducks, scoring, passing, mucking it up and playing in every key situation. He plays with an edge that drives opponents nuts. He created a stir by nailing Sharks' Jonathon Cheechoo with an elbow during the last series.
Toss in a 32-goal and 72-point season this year, Perry is a dangerous dude in more ways than one.
"Itıs been a great season," Perry said. "The more confidence, the better you feel. It's like these playoffs. Weıve got as good a chance as anyone to win and it doesn't matter where we finished." The real news though is how well Perry has combined with Getzlaf and Ryan.
The Ducks are riding them hard.
"It feels great to be able to contribute like this," Perry said. "We've just seemed to jell. The good thing is to be able to do this with friends. We all like each other. We get along with each other. We hang out off the ice. It's just been a lot of fun." As well a pleasure to watch.