Tanner Pearson (right) celebrates one of his two goals against San Jose on April 2 with linemate Bo Horvat.
Gerry Kahrmann / PNG
Has the well-travelled winger — he spent time with three teams last season — found a home on Bo Horvat’s line with his late-season surge?Name: Tanner PearsonAge: 26.Position: Left wing/right wing.Career stats: GP: 388, G: 87, A: 83, Pts: 170, PIM 105.Contract status: Two years remaining on a four-year, US $15 million extension with Los Angeles in 2017. Carries a $3.75 million salary-cap hit.How 2018-19 went: Adventurous. Three teams in one season can rattle any player. Pearson had a combined 27 points (18-9) in 80 games, but finally gained late-season traction with Bo Horvat.He had an impressive run of seven goals in his final nine games — including four in his last three — to offer some hope that the troubled alignment may have found one solution at wing. Until that point, Pearson looked a little lost and struggled with his stride before finishing the Canucks portion of his wacky mystery tour with 12 points in 19 games (9-3). He was acquired at the trade deadline from Pittsburgh for Erik Gudbranson.For too long, it looked like Pearson’s best days were in the SoCal rear-view mirror in Los Angeles on “That 70s’ Line” with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli when he had a 24-goal season. He was shipped to Pittsburgh on Nov. 13 for Carl Hagelin to create cap space. He also had but one assist in 17 games, was a minus-9 rating and was riding a 30-game goal drought. He wasn’t going to help supplant the Kings’ eventual transition from aging veterans Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. In short, he was expendable.Pearson scored three goals in his first six games with the Penguins but had 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.
Canucks winger Tanner Pearson skates past after scoring a goal against Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper on Feb. 28, 2019 in Glendale, Ariz.
Ross D. Franklin /
Associated Press files
In a 4-2 victory over San Jose on April 2, he had two goals, seven shots, nine attempts and two hits. When Horvat out-legged Brent Burns in that meeting and fed a back pass from the end boards into the high slot, Pearson was where he was supposed to be to snap a shot far side on goalie Martin Jones.“As you get games with guys, you get comfortable and playing with the same guys has probably helped, too,” Pearson reasoned in a post-game assessment of his late-season success. “I’ve got some chemistry and it’s been good so far. I’m happy where my game is right now.“Especially playing a playoff team because they’re getting to crunch time and wanting to play their best hockey. If we can withstand that and beat some teams, it can carry some momentum into next year.”There’s room for improvement. Rating his three stops over a full season meant Pearson would have allowed the fifth-most giveaways among Canucks forwards and ranked ninth in takeaways, fifth in blocked shots and third in hits. His Cori-for puck-controlling percentage was seventh at 48.6, which should improve.UNDER THE MICROSCOPEIt has been over seven weeks since the Vancouver Canucks began their summer holidays, nine points shy of a wild-card berth into the NHL playoffs. Today we continue our microscopic examination of the team’s roster:Coming Wednesday: Ryan SpoonerJosh LeivoTyler MotteOlli JuoleviMarkus GranlundLuke SchennSven BaertschiBrandon SutterTravis GreenAlex BiegaJake VirtanenQuinn HughesNikolay GoldobinJim BenningChris TanevAlex EdlerTroy StecherBen Hutton“He has been a nice addition,” said Canucks coach Travis Green. “A bigger body who’s strong on the puck and understands the game. He understands what it takes to win and he’s won Stanley Cups at a young age and you can really see it in his game.“It’s probably a little bit of opportunity and playing with Bo, they’ve got some chemistry and he seems to be skating better than when we first got him and he’s playing well.”How the future looks: Sustainability and support will be crucial. Scoring when you’re out of the playoffs in more meaningless games and playing spoiler can be easier than pushing for a spot. Green likes his versatility, but Pearson seems better suited on the left side as a left shot who should be prominent along the walls and get to the net to unleash an underrated shot.
Vancouver Canuck Tanner Pearson (far right) celebrates his second goal against San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones as Joe Pavelski (8), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) and Timo Meier (28) look on during the third period of their NHL game in Vancouver on April 2, 2019.
DARRYL DYCK /
THE CANADIAN PRESS files
If the Canucks can actually find a right-winger to complement the duo through free agency or, more likely, a trade — Horvat had a dozen different wingers and three dozen different line combinations this season — then a second wave of attack to support Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser could help push the club past 81 points.“He’s a treat to have on my wing,” Horvat said of Pearson. “He’s fast, aggressive and gets on the forecheck. Especially after the year he has had in being traded twice, he has fit in unbelievably well.”Greatest strengths: At 6-foot-1, 201 pounds, Pearson can make it a long night for opposition forwards and defencemen when he decides to play a heavy game. Can be a force down low and doesn’t get enough credit for a good shot release.Greatest weaknesses: Streaky scorer and stride could be stronger. Needs to do other things when the goals aren’t coming, be harder on pucks and cause havoc in front of the opposition net.Is he trade bait: No. With so many questions at left and right wing, he should be more of a solution than a problem.The big question: Can he return to 20-plus goal territory on a good line and with power-play email@example.com/benkuzma CLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.