Canucks are banking on left-winger to slot in as a productive top-six fit with centres Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson.You hear it all the time.Nice kid. Lost his confidence. Should shoot more. Should have been part of the next wave of core players.Tanner Pearson is not the first — and he certainly won’t be the last first-round NHL draft pick — who displays unbelievable potential, puts up a strong season and then wonders what went awry. The left-winger who won a Stanley Cup at age 21 with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014 has now been traded twice in the last 15 weeks.The newest member of the Vancouver Canucks, acquired Monday in a trade-deadline swap for defenceman Erik Gudbranson, had earlier been shipped by L.A. to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 13 for winger Carl Hagelin to create cap space. That’s a nice way of putting it.Pearson also had but one assist in 17 games, was a minus-9 rating and in a 30-game goal drought. He wasn’t going to help supplant the Kings’ eventual transition from aging veterans like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. He was expendable.In Pittsburgh, the 26-year-old Kitchener, Ont., native scored three goals in his first six games, but finished with just nine through 44 and was a frequent healthy scratch. The problem was common: He had to get to the net more, had to battle down low, had to hold on to the puck for longer periods and had to shoot more.“Little things like that translate into the big picture,” Pearson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Those are the things I want to look at.”
Tanner Pearson in action for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Philadelphia Flyers in the outdoors game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia last weekend.
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Canucks coach Travis Green wants to get a look at the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Pearson during a pivotal three-game road trip that opens Wednesday in Denver. Right now, the optics on Pearson are somewhat fuzzy, even though he has been tabbed as a top-six fit for either Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson by general manager Jim Benning.Pearson is far removed from 24 goals with the Kings two seasons ago and being part of the vaunted That 70s Line in Los Angeles with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli. He has some rope here with two more seasons on a contract that has an annual US $3.75-million salary cap hit.He also has incentive.The left side has been hit by injuries and indifferent play. Sven Baertschi has concussion issues, Nikolay Goldobin has been scratched nine times, Ryan Spooner is a roll of the trade dice and Loui Eriksson is a fourth-liner. Antoine Roussel has been the best of that bunch, but Horvat sees hope in Pearson.“I played against him my first year in junior in London (2011-12) and he was obviously one of Barrie’s best players and he played with (Mark) Scheifele,” recalled Horvat. “Just watching that (2014) Cup final and how good he was, I think he can bring that aspect here as well. He has a lot of upside and we’re happy to have him.”If Pearson aligns with Horvat and there’s instant chemistry, it will take the centre out of a carousel of revolving wingers and line combinations that topped three dozen this season. Never one to outwardly complain, Horvat knows what line symmetry can do.
We suspect that Tanner Pearson, seen here as an L.A. King laying the lumber on Canucks star rookie Elias Pettersson in a September pre-season game at Rogers Arena, will be more kindly disposed to his new teammate.
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In a 5-1 win in Denver on Feb 2, the Canucks were healthy. Horvat had Baertschi on his left side, Alex Edler and Chris Tanev formed the top pairing. Jacob Markstrom was strong and Thatcher Demko served as the backup. They even scored on the power play. Yet through that four-game trip, Baertschi, Edler and Demko would succumb to injuries.“It was frustrating and there’s nothing that you can do about it,” recalled Horvat. “The way things are going, it seems like the last four years we were right there and we get these lingering and weird injuries. I don’t know if it’s bad luck or what’s going on, but hopefully we get guys healthy and make a run for it (playoffs).“Having that in the back of your mind where we can make a push is enough motivation for everybody. To keep reminding guys of that is really important.”The Canucks have 62 points — four shy of the final Western Conference wild-card spot — and might have to go 13-6 in their final 19 games to hit 88 points and squeeze into the post-season. The Minnesota Wild held the final playoff position Monday with 66 points and a 10-8-1 finish would put the club at 87 points.Roussel advanced to the post-season twice with the Dallas Stars and beside being the straw that stirs the motivational and gritty drink for the Canucks, he has to also be the voice of reason down this telling stretch.Especially with a transitioning roster and only four players — Edler, Tanev, Horvat, Baertschi — who saw duty in the 2015 first-round series loss to the Calgary Flames.“It’s going to come and I feel like we’ve been knocking on the door,” Roussel said of stringing together a win streak. “We have enough games left to keep the focus and everybody plays for something at this point of the year. It’s about knowing what you have in a player and leaving it all out there.”OVERTIME: The Canucks have recalled defenceman Guillaume Brisebois from the AHL’s Utica Comets.email@example.com/benkuzma
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