Tanner Pearson’s chemistry with J.T. Miller sparked freshness in the veteran Canuck forward’s game
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
It wasn’t a picture-perfect year for 29-year-old Tanner Pearson, who finished the season prematurely with an upper-body injury back in April. The Kitchener, Ontario native recorded his best season to date in his second year in Vancouver during the shortened 2019-20 season. Two years later, the former Stanley Cup Champion is egging his way closer to a 40-point production season.
Pearson recorded 34 points, 11 points shy of his career-high, in 68 games this season. What slowed his point total was a lack of goals. Playing limited time on the Canucks’ second powerplay unit, and operating as a shoo-in penalty killer, left little opportunity for the left winger to get in the mix on the man advantage. As he mentioned in his end-of-season media availability, “not a lot of goals are scored on the penalty kill.”
Pearson still managed to find the back of the net 14 times, but if he wants to knock on the door of his fourth career 40-point season, the benchmark for that number should become 20 – which he previously attained in Vancouver. If he can score three powerplay goals next season, matching his career-high, it’s not unrealistic to expect 17 even-strength goals, especially if he’s still somehow on a line centred by J.T. Miller.
So far in his time with the Canucks, Pearson has almost exclusively played on a line with Bo Horvat, which was a sturdy second line to the then recently assembled lotto line in terms of point production. Horvat and Pearson combined for 7.1 of the team’s offensive point shares, while Pearson sported a 2.7 average for even-strength goals. The downside? Their goals-against average peaked above three.
With Miller, Pearson finished the season with a positive plus-minus differential and was able to drop his goals-against average to 2.3, while increasing his average for even-strength goals. So, although a better season 5 v 5 didn’t translate in the point category, in games, Pearson was a far more assertive player. Other than Bruce Boudreau’s coveted fourth line, Miller and Pearson played the most minutes with one another.
“To contribute you need to help out at 5 on 5, and I thought I did a good job of that this year,” explained Pearson. “Obviously playing with Miller, he is such a play driver. With the year he had, it was a lot of fun to play with him.”
Pearson’s best stretch of play came in late February, when he held a five-game point streak and recorded 12 points in 11 games, respectively. One game before his injury, Pearson managed to snap a mini pointless drought with a goal on the road against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The following night, Pearson played last than five minutes after injuring his hand during his first shift of the game. “I know something was up, [my] finger kept getting bigger and bigger,” revealed Pearson. “Took an image and it wasn’t good.”
Initially, the injury was believed to be minor and was ruled a hopeful day-to-day case by Boudreau. But as the end of the season loomed with still no return to play for Pearson, questions shifted to his position for next season rather than his presence in the final games of the year.
“I was close to getting back; it was a real tough time for it to happen, and not be able to [return],” shared Pearson about the nature of his injury. “I talked to people to see if I could, and it just didn’t work out. It’s probably halfway healed, we’ll just take it week by week.”
Last season, Pearson was also sidelined for a month with a lower-body injury suffered against the Ottawa Senators in March.
During his final media availability of the year, Pearson was also questioned about the development of 20-year-old Vasily Podkolzin, who just wrapped up his rookie year in the NHL. Other than his English speaking abilities, which Pearson said have improved tremendously throughout the year, Pearson praised Podkolzin’s raw talent.
“I have a lot of hope for that kid, I think he’s going to be an unbelievable player,” said Pearson. “I think being a young guy, and how young he is, I think we forget he’s still 20. When he learns kind of the game within a game and has that type of confidence, he’s going to be something else. He can skate like the wind, and shoot a puck like I haven’t seen; I think he is going to score a lot of goals.”
These words speak volumes in themselves but are even more memorable when combined with the fact that Pearson was drafted into the NHL when he was Podkolzin’s age. 20-year-old Pearson went undrafted for two years before the Los Angeles Kings selected him with the last pick in the first round of the NHL draft in 2012 after they had just won the Stanley Cup. Just a year later, he made his NHL debut in the second round of the playoffs against the San Jose Sharks. By the end of his rookie year with the team, Pearson was a Stanley Cup Champion.
Now an 11-year veteran in the league and seeing the talent continue to rise in the ranks in the Canucks prospect pool, Pearson is optimistic about the future yet to come and how he can be a part of it. He will be entering his second year of a three-year contract this upcoming season, hopefully, back to 100%.
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