PEARSON’S PATIENCE PAYS OFF
A 14th round pick in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, 267th overall, passed over in the NHL Entry Draft in two consecutive years. This is Tanner Pearson.
Growing up in the hockey hot-bed of Kitchener, Ontario Tanner Pearson was part of a humming hockey family and began working with the Kitchener Rangers as a dressing room attendant.
On the morning of the 2008 OHL Draft Pearson sat and waited for a call saying he had been selected.
The Barrie Colts meanwhile, had just made their first round selection drafting Ryan O’Connor with the sixth overall pick.
Pearson and his family continued to wait, round after round, their hopes began to dwindle.
Then in the 14th round, the Barrie Colts selected the forward with the 267th overall pick.
“Pearson is a competitive and smart hockey player who is passionate about the game”, said Colts GM Jason Ford.
Smiles reigned supreme in the Pearson household.
As a 14th round selection the odds were already stacked against Pearson and he would not make the Colts in each of his first two seasons.
But in 2010 the Colts lineup was decimated after a birth in the OHL Finals one year prior, which created room for the left-winger.
That season the Colts were the worst team in the OHL and missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
But for Pearson, it was a chance to get in to the league, as he joined the team at the same time as fellow Kitchener native Mark Scheifele.
While Scheifele stepped up and established himself as a force in his rookie season, it took Pearson a little longer to get used to things in the OHL.
In his first 32 games the six-footer posted five goals and seven assists. Head Coach Dale Hawerchuk, in his first year behind the bench, then placed Pearson on a newly formed line with import Petr Beranek and 10th round pick Dylan Smoskowitz.
That trio would start to gain some chemistry and Pearson posted ten goals and 20 assists in the final 34 games of the season for a year-long total of 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points.
Scheifele meanwhile, put up 75 points in 66 games in his rookie season and was rewarded by hearing his name called in the first round of that summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
At that moment Pearson realized he wasn’t that far off and came back for his second season in the best shape of his life and was clearly a different player on the ice.
“After a solid rookie season his game evolved in a short period of time and he became one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the OHL this past season”, said Ford.
Pearson was determined to be a better player and nothing was going to stop him.
The OHL’s most improved player got off to an incredible start, even without number one center Scheifele who was still with the Winnipeg Jets.
Pearson joined overage captain Colin Behenna and center Zach Hall to form the Colts top line, and that trio tore the league up through the first few months of the season combining for 96 points in the first 15 games, led by Pearson with 12 goals and 22 assists. All three were leading the league in scoring.
With Scheifele coming back the lines began to shuffle, and while Hall and Behenna began to drop off in the overall scoring race, Pearson continued to lead the league.
Pearson led the Colts back to the post-season in third spot in the Eastern Conference. A season filled with incredible moments for a 19 year old forward who had been passed over by so many teams.
As the season progressed more and more NHL scouts were beginning to take note of Pearson, and it became pretty clear that he would not be passed over for a third straight time.
Pearson finished third in league scoring with 91 points in 60 games in a wild year that saw him play for Team Canada at the World Juniors, play in both legs of the Subway Super Series and play in the OHL Top Prospects Game.
Pearson was also named OHL Player of the Week twice and CHL Player of the Week once, en route to being named the league’s Most Improved Player and a berth on the OHL’s second All Star team.
One of the best players in the league, Pearson was ready to lead his team in to the post-season, but suffered a season-ending injury in the final game of the regular season.
His teammates rallied around their leading-scorer and defeated the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in six games to advance to the Conference semi-finals against the Ottawa 67’s where they would eventually fall in seven games.
From a 14th round selection three years prior to leading the third-place Colts in scoring, Pearson had completely turned around his hockey career.
Now just days away from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft Pearson is preparing to travel to Pittsburgh with the hopes of hearing his name called and stepping up to the stage just like his friend Scheifele did one year before him.
Pearson is currently ranked as the 25th best North American skater and most pundits have him to go late in the first round or early in the second.
Whether he can sneak up a few picks the way that Scheifele did last year, or whether he drops a few spots, Pearson is just hopeful that the wait to hear his name called won’t be quite the same length as it was during the OHL draft.
On NHL.com Adam Kimmelman has Pearson being selected in the first round with the 27th overall pick, Steven Hoffner has him going 28th overall.