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2015 Top 25 Under 25, #2: Tanner Pearson

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If Pearson doesn't score seven goals in his first eight games again, he's fired.

Harry How/Getty Images

Two half-seasons in Los Angeles are enough to get this guy to the number two spot.

Rank Player DOB Nationality Drafted Current League 2014 Rank
2 Tanner Pearson 8/10/1992 Canadian 1st round, 30th overall (2012) NHL 4

As we move up the rankings, these articles always transition slowly from reviews of the prior year to previews of the year -- or career -- in store. We've given you a quality review of his season already, so we'll get to the question in everyone's mind: how is Pearson going to follow up a season in which he burned brightly before burning out?

Well, the preseason stats (0 goals, 4 assists) say that Pearson has reinvented himself as a pass-first winger! Whoops!

The truth, of course, is that Pearson is going to be relied on for the same thing he was relied on during the first half of 2014-15: goalscoring. I mentioned in yesterday's piece about Marian Gaborik that Pearson  was the team's top shooter at even-strength, and it wasn't even close; in fact, he was top-ten in the NHL across all situations.

NHL 2014-15 Shooting Percentage Leaders (min 41 games)

Player Team Pos GP G PPG SHG S S%
Alex Tanguay COL L 80 22 2 1 104 21.2
Jiri Hudler CGY C 78 31 6 0 158 19.6
Vladislav Namestnikov TBL C 43 9 1 0 46 19.6
Zack Kassian VAN R 42 10 1 0 55 18.2
Benoit Pouliot EDM L 58 19 4 1 105 18.1
Henrik Sedin VAN C 82 18 5 0 101 17.8
Mikkel Boedker ARI L 45 14 3 0 79 17.7
Tanner Pearson LAK L 42 12 1 0 68 17.6
Mike Cammalleri NJD L 68 27 9 2 156 17.3
Stephen Weiss DET C 52 9 3 0 52 17.3

Now, 68 shots is nowhere near enough to gauge a player's shooting talent, and only three of these players (Tanguay, Hudler, Kassian) cracked the 15% mark in 2013-14. Fair or not, though, it's built in the expectation that Pearson will again be a lethal offensive weapon on the second line. Are there any indications that Pearson can keep it up?

One encouraging sign: Pearson's average shot distance was 5th-shortest on the Kings last season, behind Kopitar, Stoll, Gaborik, and King. That shows some ability to get into a decent shooting position relative to his teammates. However, that's in the middle of the pack on a leaguewide basis. Here's a look (from Sporting Charts) at Pearson's shooting last season at even strength.

Pearson Shooting

The goals (the red dots) are pretty widely distributed, but  we are able to see that Pearson was doing a lot of his damage from outside the high-percentage area in front; Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli each found a lot more success in and around the crease. Pearson, however, was doing damage with wristers and snapshots from the top of the circle. Sustainable? He certainly has a good shot, but we'll have to wait and see.

Fortunately for Pearson, he might h not have to score to be useful this season. Last night he actually led all Kings forwards in time spent on the penalty kill. And despite Darryl Sutter's intent to make his third line a shutdown line and the presence of Selke contender Anze Kopitar on the first line, the second line will still draw difficult opposition. If Pearson doesn't score 25, it's not the end of the world... as long as he contributes elsewhere.

And if he does, he'll have absolutely justified this #2 ranking.