Every year there are several examples of players who goes from relative anonymity to hearing their name called early in the NHL Draft. There are no shortage of feel-good stories this year, but Tanner Pearson is certainly an exception to the norm.
14th Round OHL Pick. 2 years in Jr. B. Undrafted in 2010 and 2011. The resume may not scream NHL 1st rounder, but Pearson’s play is making a compelling case to change that in 2012.
The 19-year-old Kitchener, Ont. native was an effective player for the Barrie Colts a season ago, but 2011 has been nothing short of dominance. As of publication time, Pearson has racked up some pretty ridiculous numbers so far this season. 22 goals and 60 points is a good season for most, but Pearson has managed to tally these numbers in only 28 games this season. The Colts winger also has a 12-point lead in the OHL scoring race, and has notched at least 1 point in 26 of 28 games played.Keep in mind, Pearson has been passed over in two straight NHL Drafts.
In all fairness, I don’t think anybody saw this type of season coming, but it’s nothing short of a guarantee that Pearson will hear his name called in Pittsburgh next summer. The only question is – How high?
At this point in time, I have to ponder if the answer to that question isn’t the 1st round. While it is rare for players in their 3rd year of draft eligibility to go high, it’s not unheard of. Most recently, Viktor Tikhonov was selected 28th overall in 2008 during his 3rd year of draft eligibility. Finnish netminder Mikko Koskinen was also selected 31st overall by the New York Islanders in 2009, his 4th year of draft eligibility.
Despite both of those players being European, Pearson is certainly making a case to join their company. Pearson’s incredible start to the OHL season this year has generated a lot of buzz around hockey circles. So much so that Pearson has been invited to the Canadian World Junior Camp and I personally would be quite surprised if he doesn’t end up cracking the Under 20 roster. There is certainly a consensus that he’s a lock to be drafted next summer, but there seems to be no consensus about just where he may slot in.
Allow me to pose a question: Why not the 1st round? I’ve seen quite a bit of OHL action this season, and taking everything into account, I am starting to believe that the 1st round could become a reality for him. He has the size to play at the next level, competes hard, skates well, and has really become a dynamic offensive player off the rush and in the offensive zone. The numbers don’t lie, he’s been extremely consistent this season, and frankly, he’s become a player you notice in every game.
We’ll learn a lot about what type of player Tanner Pearson is at the World Junior camp, and potentially during the World Juniors, but for now, Pearson’s play is making a statement that an NHL 1st round pick is certainly within the realm of possibilities.