1. Tanner Pearson and Team
Since November 12th, no player on the Vancouver Canucks has more points than Tanner Pearson. The 27-year-old has been a point-per-game player in his last 31 games and is one of the reasons the Canucks occupy first spot in the Pacific Division heading into the all-star break.
Not only is Pearson enjoying one of the most productive stretches of his NHL career, but he's quietly been a consistent and effective contributor since arriving to Vancouver in a trade from Pittsburgh last season.
The Canucks acquired Pearson from the Penguins in exchange for defenceman Erik Gudbranson at last year's trade deadline. The Kitchener, Ontario native made an immediate impact upon arrival, recording nine goals and 12 points in his first 19 contests. He's carried that success into 2019-20, exploding for 14 goals and 37 points in his first 49 games this season.
Pearson's lethal shot, 200-foot game and hockey intelligence are all contributing to his success this season. When he isn't putting that great shot to use, Pearson is scoring his goals by reading the play and driving to the net. His goals won't necessarily make all the highlight reels, but Pearson already has three 15-goal NHL seasons to his name due to his hockey awareness and natural goal-scoring ability.
Pearson snipes home PPG
00:32 • November 12, 2019
The Canucks had an idea of what they were getting when they acquired Pearson last season. The 6'1" forward has a proven history of scoring goals at almost every level he's played at. After being taken 30th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Kings, Pearson took steps forward in each of his first three seasons with LA before breaking out for consecutive 40-point seasons in 2016 and 2017.
Pearson's career year came in the 2016-17 campaign when he potted 24 goals for the Kings. He had a down year in 2018-19 split between LA and Pittsburgh before being traded to Vancouver. Pearson appeared to lose his confidence early last season but was quick to regain it upon joining the Canucks. He was set up to success for Vancouver with Travis Green giving him quality linemates and minutes from the get-go. Pearson has regularly played with Bo Horvat since the trade and has developed some impressive chemistry with the Canucks' captain. The team's current second line, which also includes Loui Eriksson, owns a 51.58 Corsi-For percentage and 57.89 High Danger Corsi-For percentage, a strong indication of possession dominance.
Pearson isn't just piling up his points in stretches. He's doing it consistently. The top-six forward has only been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games twice since mid-November and is on pace to easily surpass his previous career high of 44 points. Pearson is shooting the puck more frequently than he ever has before and is being rewarded for his strong play by receiving the highest average ice time (16:28) of his NHL career.
Instead of Vancouver relying primarily on the Pettersson, Boeser and Horvat trio this season, the wealth has been spread out more evenly. Pearson is one of six Vancouver forwards who have already reached double digits in goals this season. That's a major improvement from a year ago when Boeser, Horvat, and Pettersson all came close to the 30-goal mark but no other player on the team had more than 15 tallies. The depth contributions are a big reason the Canucks are averaging 3.34 goals-per-game this season after finishing with the sixth-lowest average in 2018-19 (2.64).
Pearson has also played a role in helping the Canucks' power play improve from 17.1 percent efficiency last season to 23.8 percent efficiency this season. The former King has chipped in three tallies with the man advantage, as the Canucks have confidently been able to put out their second unit without needing to rely on the big guns to get the job done. Pearson's power-play time (1:42 average) isn't much different from what he was seeing in LA, but he's already matched his career high in power-play goals. By using his 6'1", 201 lbs frame to create a net-front presence and relying on his solid hand-eye for deflections, Pearson is creating havoc for opposing goaltenders.
Pearson tips shot home for PPG
00:39 • January 18, 2020
Not only is Pearson shining on offense, but he's also getting it done defensively. The second-line winger is constantly getting matched up against opposing team's top lines at five-on-five and is also making an impact on the penalty kill. For the second straight year, the Canucks have a penalty kill operating at over 80 percent efficiency. Pearson's relentless hustle and puck pursuit has led to him sitting fourth on the team with 22 takeaways this season.
Some of Pearson's biggest assets are his playoff experience with the Kings and leadership ability. Pearson was a key depth contributor for the Los Angels team that won the Stanley Cup in 2014. The Canadian forward was just a 21-year-old rookie when he recorded four goals and 10 points in the 2014 postseason to help the Kings capture Lord Stanley.
Pearson's prior playoff experience is going to be very valuable when the Canucks manage to end their four-year playoff drought. Vancouver's current young core, which includes 21-year-old Elias Pettersson and 20-year-old Quinn Hughes, have yet to get a taste of NHL postseason hockey. Pearson going through the ups-and-downs of a lengthy playoff run at a young age is going to be a major asset anytime this young group of Canucks is faced with adversity down the road.
Pearson isn't the flashiest player on the ice, but he's quietly been one of the most consistent Canucks since arriving from Pittsburgh and is on pace for his best NHL season to date.