After being passed over by all 30 teams in each of the seven rounds last June, Tanner Pearson is ready to hear his name called on draft day.
Pearson’s story is not uncommon in Major Junior as many times guys will go undrafted and then come back the following season more determined to fulfill their potential.
But his tale does have that almost storybook feel to it.
Growing up in Kitchener, ON., Pearson was a big fan of the OHL franchise in that town – the Kitchener Rangers. Young Pearson was always at the Aud, the Rangers home rink, and would see countless games and practices there. Eventually he was hanging around the team so much that he was given a role as a junior assistant trainer, helping to run errands, fill water bottles and tape sticks. Pearson was in his glory hanging around the likes of current NHLers Nick Spaling and Steve Mason.
Fast forward to Pearson’s OHL draft year where he was taken in the 14th round of the 2008 OHL Priority selection by the Barrie Colts. He fell so late partly because he was not considered a high-end talent and partly because he sustained a season ending injury in his last season of Minor Midget. After being caught in a numbers game in Barrie he finally got his OHL career going last season with a respectable 15 goals and 42 points in 66 games.
After going unselected and seeing Colts teammate Mark Scheifele drafted by Winnipeg last June, it was as though a switch was flipped and Pearson knew it was all or nothing if he wanted to make his dream of joining his Kitchener heroes in the NHL one day.
Pearson trained hard all summer and came into Colts camp in the best shape he had ever been in. That dedication showed from the very first game as he drew the attention of NHL scouts with his dominant play at both ends of the rink for Barrie. There was even talk of first round consideration by some.
Suffice to say, Pearson’s turnaround has been dramatic.
”He is a very intelligent forward who has finally found himself in Barrie,” Future Considerations’ OHL scout Sean Lafortune said. “He shows very strong positional play, and is always in the right place. He sees the ice well and makes strong passes in both the neutral and offensive zones. He knows where to be, and he knows what to do both with and without the puck. Growing over 4 inches these past two years, adding 30 lbs and producing like he has, it makes him an interesting players to watch.”
His offensive totals ballooned to over twice his previous mark as he became that consistent offensive threat every night, often putting up multi-point games and leading Barrie both on and off the ice. He finished with 37 goals and 91 points in 60 games.
His selection to join Team Canada at the World Juniors in Calgary last December was the cherry on top of his season that has since been derailed by a broken femur in his second to last regular season game.
Despite the rough end to his season Tanner more than likely has done enough to hear his name called this time around in Pittsburgh come June and may just join those former Kitchener Rangers he once looked up to.