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Canucks: The Price of Tanner Pearson’s Pedigree

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Vancouver Canucks, Tanner Pearson
Vancouver Canucks winger Tanner Pearson.

Tanner Pearson is the type of player every playoff teams wants and needs and the Vancouver Canucks are no exception. That’s if they make the playoffs.

You can count the Cup winners on the Canucks roster on one hand, with two fingers; Pearson and Luke Schenn. Neither are very expensive. 32-year-old D-man Schenn makes less than a million bucks while Pearson checks in at $3.25-million per season for another two. Unfortunately, that’s right about the amount the Canucks will need to relieve themselves of come the end of the season.

The Canucks salary cap is crunchy moving ahead, especially if, and more likely when, captain Bo Horvat signs his new multi-year deal.

For now, Vancouver will make the most of the just turned 30-year-old Pearson’s sniping ability and big game experience to the fullest. He hit that monumental age mark on August 10th.

“Woke up feeling thirty,” Pearson said with a laugh. “No, I mean, as long as you take care of yourself, it’s just another day.”

Pearson enters his 11th season in the NHL, his fourth full one with the Canucks. He won his Stanley Cup in 2014 following his first regular season in the league with the Los Angeles Kings at age 21. The memories that stand out involve the guys with experience, his mentors, who had already won the ultimate prize two years earlier.

“Lead by example,” Pearson said. “When I was on that team, looking up to those guys and what age they were and how they conducted themselves on and off the ice, it was definitely a big learning thing to me and I still look up to those guys. You live and learn and hopefully being the older guy now I can carry it over.”

Pearson reeled through an impressive list of names, Jeff Carter (then age 28), Anze Kopitar (26), Dustin Brown (28), Jarret Stoll (31), and the man he referred to as “Mr. Game-7”, Justin Williams (31). Marion Gaborik, who lit up the postseason with 22 points, was also 31.

“Pretty good line-up of guys to learn from, so looking back at it, pretty lucky,” Pearson said.

Pearson was no slouch, averaging a half-a-point-a-game in that postseason, scoring a goal in the series clinchers in both the first and second rounds. Pointless in the five-game Cup Final against the New York Rangers, he still filled important roles for head coach Darryl Sutter, playing 21:21 in ice time in the clinching game over a whopping 32 shifts. It was far and away his most ice time in the postseason; a coach embedding the experience into a young player.

Putting It to Good Use

The Canucks probably aren’t prepared to maximize a player of Pearson’s experience. The team’s simply not there yet. It makes for sort of an awkward time barring the club overachieving in 2022-’23. Pearson might be 32 or 33 before this Canucks club gets its balance together. Whether he’s around to experience what the team hopes will be continued growth is anybody’s guess.

Pearson tallied 14 goals and 20 assists in 68 games last season. Whether he improves on it depends on ice time. There’s some fresh faces competing up front. He says he’s inspired by the work ethic of the youth, pointing to Russian forward Vasily Podkolzin in particular.

Pearson’s work ethic developed early in a consummate Canadian hockey household. The kid from Kitchener, Ontario had a dad who worked in the business for equipment manufacturer Bauer. In fact dad still works there.

“We used to go to the A.C.C. (Air Canada Centre), go to (Maple Leafs) morning skates, hang by the lockerroom, it was pretty cool, with having your dad, to be able to do that,” Pearson said.

Beyond pretty cool is winning the Stanley Cup.

When one imagines hoisting the chalice over his head, he also must try to imagine the grind, the pain, and the anger required to accomplish the goal. If and when the Canucks are ready, Pearson may or may not be here to pass along the experience.

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