It’s hard to resist the connection between the Barrie Colts forward Tanner Pearson and the Winnipeg Jets. Maybe it’s because one of his good friends, Mark Scheifele was the first Winnipeg Jets draft pick (7th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft, or that another Colts teammate Ivan Telegin is also a Jets prospect.
Maybe it’s because his coach is Dale Hawerchuk, a Winnipeg Jets legend for years. Or maybe it’s because current Winnipeg Jets stars Bryan Little and Alex Burmistrov both played for the Barrie Colts a few years ago.
"The joke around our room is that we're the Winnipeg Colts," chuckled Pearson last Friday from the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto. “I know lots of guys there, with Scheif (Scheifele) and (Ivan) Telegin- ‘the Big Russian Bull’ we call him.
“Scheif has filled me in a lot on Winnipeg and what it’s like. When he came back from there after the great start he had, he was much more mature. I wouldn’t say he was a different kind of player but he was a more professional person.”
Pearson may or may not be on Winnipeg’s radar, but his numbers from this season sure seem to jump off the page.
The Kitchener, Ontario native is considered to be a late bloomer, as he went undrafted in both 2010 and again in 2011 after tallying 15 goals and 27 assists in his rookie OHL season. He doubled his stats this season posting 37 goals and 54 assists for 91 points in 60 games. He is now ranked at 25th by NHL Central Scouting.
“I don’t think it matters. I think so much can happen on draft day,” said Pearson of his rankings. “It all depends where teams have you on their list. Watching Scheif’ last year, I think he was ranked mid-first-round and he jumped to seventh, so it all depends.”
Pearson said he met with 25 NHL teams during the Combine last week and the Jets were one of them. One question that he may have been asked was about his foot. Pearson broke his ankle near the end of the season, forcing him to miss most of the playoffs. With it not being completely healed yet, the near 20-year-old was not able to take part in the bike tests or the jumping tests.
“I got off easy because of my ankle; I didn’t have to do the bikes or the jumps,” he said. “I’ve done the bikes in the past and they are very very hard to go through. I would have rather done the testing then the broken ankle… but it happened.”
Although Pearson was one of the oldest prospects at the NHL Scouting Combine last weekend, he said he was very happy to have had someone to talk to about the entire experience and the upcoming draft.
“I’ve been through this all last summer with Scheifs’,” he said. We had a good summer working out and were able to push each other, which benefited us both at the end of the day. I’m the older guy here but it’s never too late to go through this.
“Being the happy-go-lucky guy that he is, he just said to come here and have fun with it all. Don’t be too nervous in the interviews, just go in and be yourself because that’s what the teams want to hear.”
With the NHL Draft just a couple weeks away, Pearson says he's excited to just take it all in.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” he smiled. “I don’t think it matters where I get drafted, I just think it’s going to be a fun day for my family and I, it’ll be quite the experience.”
What advice would he give to pass down to the next batch of prospects to go through this process?
“First of all, come in shape to this combine,” he laughed. “Just be yourself, it’s nothing to really get worked up about in the interviews. All the teams want to do is see your personality, they see how you are on the ice they just want to know what you’re like off the ice.”
Author: Kristi Hennessy/ winnipegjets.com