Yes, this is Silver Seven Sens' second prospect profile leading up to the NHL Entry Draft at the Consol Energy Centre in Pittsburgh. No, we do not expect Tanner Pearson to go second overall. Instead, we're going to jump around the prospect rankings, showcasing players expected to go in the top round or close to it. This feature is not going to follow the rankings, but instead will look at different kinds of players each day. Yesterday, we saw a player in Nail Yakupov who will not be an Ottawa Senator. Today, we look at one who could be theirs if they wanted him, Tanner Pearson of the Barrie Colts.
If Pearson had been taken in the draft last year or the year before, the team fortunate enough to select him in a late round would be comparing his astronomical rise over the past season to that of Mark Stone the year before. Yet, after a combined 421 picks over the last two years, Pearson is not the property of any NHL team. His first two years of draft eligibility have thus obviously been a disappointment. The way things are looking in his third, 'disappointing' could be called 'the second round.' So, how does a player go from relative obscurity in Junior B to middling OHL forward to top-round talent? Experience surely helps, but Tanner has only now played two years in the OHL. Age helps more. As a 19 year old, Pearson excelled in his second season- racking up more than twice the number of points in year two than year one.
Still, there have to be other pieces to the puzzle. A player does not deceive professional scouts and pundits on the way to being considered for a first round selection. Pearson has grown and gotten better (he's actually grown a fair amount. He reveals in this interview that he was 5"8 in his first draft eligible campaign). In this video interview with The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy, Pearson gets to the heart of the matter, attributing his success largely to a summer of hard work and conditioning, which helped secure him a spot on the team's top six.
The left winger eked out Sens' prospect Shane Prince for third overall in league scoring this season, finishing with 91, despite having played six less games than the year before. Pearson may have been the only Colt in the top 20 in scoring, but that's not to suggest he's the only star on the lineup. Pearson spent much of the season as a linemate with Mark Scheifele, who nearly made the Winnipeg Jets' roster out of training camp. Pearson also got a chance to showcase his skills at the World Junior Championships, where he was a point-per-game player. Pearson is an average sized playmaker and above-average skater, whose greatest asset is his vision and playmaking ability. He doesn't do too much exceptionally, but he does just about everything very well. A solid defensive game. A good shot (37 goals). Pearson projects to be a good hockey player with second line potential.
Perhaps more important than his raw skill-set is that the past two years have witnessed Pearson's ability to commit to a difficult conditioning regimen. That discipline and work ethic is tremendously valuable. Whichever team picks Pearson knows what they are getting: a character player who will work hard. He is a relatively safe bet who does not need to be protected in a top-six role. If you feel like reading more, The Hockey Writers have written a good profile on Pearson, and The Scouting Report pondered about his potential to be a first-round pick back at the beginning of December.
As a Senator:
A rare exception, a product of his age, is that Pearson will step directly into professional hockey this coming year- he'll be twenty by the start of the season. Ottawa has a young and growing group in Binghamton into which Pearson would fit well.
The Senators are hurting for some help on the left wing. Behind the current lineup of lefties, which controversially features Nick Foligno in a top-six role, Jakob Silfverberg leads a group that consists most significantly of Matt Puempel and Shane Prince. Pearson could fill a hole in Ottawa's depth chart. To get the player though, they would likely trade down from 15. Not that the group is averse to taking people by surprise- they selected Stefan Noesen at 21 last year, which sent all us armchair managers into a state of frantically wondering "who's that?", but fifteen is too high for Pearson. It's hard not to be a little drawn in by one of the OHL's best stories this season, but what do you think? Should Ottawa be interested in a player like this?