ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Blake Perbix does not know what number he will wear yet, but he practiced with his new team for the first time on Thursday at Municipal Athletic Complex.
Perbix, who led the St. Cloud Cathedral boys hockey team in scoring each of the last two seasons, is back in St. Cloud to play for the Tier II North American Hockey League's Norsemen. The Tier I United States Hockey League opens its season on Friday and teams have made some of their final cuts.
Perbix, an 18-year-old who grew up in Zimmerman, Minn., said that he had a conversation with Omaha coach David Wilkie to discuss where he should begin the season.
"They had a lot of kids who came in who were veterans and older guys that were going to play this year and me and coach talked and we figured it would be better for me to get a lot of minutes in St. Cloud rather than playing a couple minutes a game down there," Perbix said. "We just thought it would be best for my development.
"You never think it's going to happen, but I went into his office, listened to what he said and I'm going to take that to heart and continue to work to get better."
Perbix was selected by the Lancers in the eighth round (119th overall) of the 2018 USHL Futures Draft. He was selected by the Norsemen in the eighth round (192nd overall) of the NAHL Entry Draft in July.
Perbix was given some specifics on what to work on by Wilkie.
"The big thing is I need to get stronger, be able to go into that corner and win that puck battle every time," he said. "That would really help my game a lot.
"I thought I had a good couple weeks, got in a lot better shape, started eating a lot better. So I feel great."
Perbix said that the offseason had its challenges with not being able to skate as much as he would have liked because of the restrictions involved with the coronavirus pandemic. But he was able to work out regularly and then got some work in with his cousin, Jack Perbix, who will be a sophomore on the University of Minnesota men's hockey team this season.
"We ran hills during the summer to make me a little faster," he said. "We did it at The Pit in Elk River. He'd been running there a lot and was asking me if I'd like to join. It was awesome and we both got into it."
Last season, Perbix led the Crusaders in scoring for the second straight season. As a senior, Perbix had 30 goals, 62 assists and 92 points in 30 games, helped the Crusaders to a third-place finish in the Class A state tournament and was a top 10 finalist for Mr. Hockey in the state. As a junior, Perbix had 50 assists and 70 points in 31 games to help lead Cathedral to its first state title.
In July, Perbix verbally committed to play college hockey for Northern Michigan. He will be the fifth member of the Norsemen who is committed to play for an NCAA Division I team on this season's Norsemen roster.
Perbix said he met with St. Cloud coach Corey Millen after practice.
"The North American Hockey League is really good and I also talked to (coach Casey) Mignone and he said this is going to be a great place and he knows coach Millen really well," Perbix said. "(Millen's) going to help me get better at what I need to do, get better offensively and defensively.
"I'm going into it open-eyed and ready to go. I'm not going to be negative because I know this is going to help me and I'll work hard to get better every day."
The Norsemen (0-2-0-0) return to game action at 7:35 p.m. Oct. 23 when it plays at Minot (1-0-0-1).