(Regarding the vote total: please remember that there were 10 voters, ranking from 25 to 1. Thus, the maximum possible vote total was 250.)
I was in the Consol Energy Centre when Tanner Pearson was drafted. I'd spent most of the first round shouting obnoxiously about Stanley Cup parades and the tears of my enemies and how bored I was getting waiting for my team to draft. When it got to the Kings' pick, I was sitting there in delighted anticipation. Who would Lombardi & Futa take in their infinite wisdom? Dynamic Czech winger Martin Frk? One of the Swedish whiz kids, Sebastian Collberg or Pontus Aberg? Somewhere between the words "from the Barrie" and "Colts", I began wailing with despair.
(That's not a joke. I'm told they could hear me in the press area.)
(I was drunk. Let it go.)
I have nothing personal against Tanner Pearson. I'm sure he's a very nice young man and an upstanding citizen. My problem was that he was just about to turn 20 in the summer of 2012, and I was terrified that the Kings had just drafted another Justin Azevedo. (Remember him? Me neither.)
Pearson hadn't been on anyone's radar for almost all of his minor hockey career. He only managed to make the OHL at 18, when he was passable but not very notable. He then broke out in his second season, scoring 91 points in 60 games, and making the Canadian world junior championship team. A 1.52 ppg pace is very good, but certainly not exceptional for a 19-year-old in major junior. (For reference, Azevedo had 124 points in 67 games during his 19-year-old season.) Given that several more dynamic European players with more promising ceilings were left when the Kings drafted Pearson, I think I was justified in being upset, if not in booing him quite as vociferously as I did.
Luckily, it looks like Pearson may be on his way to justifying his draft pedigree. He struggled to start last season, and was hampered by injuries, but ended up with a very respectable 47 points in 64 games as a rookie with the Monarchs. He even got about five minutes of NHL playing time when he was called up during the Kings-Sharks series last playoffs. This season, the Pearson-Vey-Toffoli line has been one of the most dominant in the AHL, and Pearson has 11 points so far in 12 games.
The Kings' braintrust seems very encouraged by Pearson's progress. In various interviews, Dean Lombardi and Ron Hextall (sniff, sniff) have noted that Pearson has bulked up since turning pro (he's now 6'0" 205 lbs), that his two-way game has strengthened, and that he's moulding himself into a power forward that they really like the look of.
Generally, getting a dependable, regular NHL player out of a 30th overall pick is a pretty good deal. From my (limited) viewings of Pearson in the AHL, he still has to do significant work on his defensive play and his general positional awareness before he'll be at that point. Still, he seems to have the fundamental tools, and it's encouraging that he's continuously visibly improving. Given the Kings' dearth of good options at the LW position, it seems inevitable that we'll see Pearson called up at some point during this regular season. I imagine that Coach Sutter will likely slot him in on that troubled third line, and if Pearson can stick there and help to stabilise the bottom six situation, I will probably stop looking at pictures of Sebastian Collberg and sighing longingly.
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- (Update) Kings Shakeup: Carter to IR, Ellerby Waived, Toffoli and Vey Called Up