Four hundred and sixty-one picks after Tanner Pearson became eligible for the NHL draft, the 19-year-old winger has finally found a home in the National Hockey League.
The Los Angeles Kings, less than two weeks removed from their first-ever Stanley Cup championship, selected Pearson with the No. 30 pick in Friday's 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the very last selection of the first round.
For Pearson, it's a long-awaited moment in the spotlight of the world hockey stage. The Ontario native became eligible to be drafted in 2010, but was passed on with all 210 picks in that year's draft and all 211 picks in the 2011 draft.
Now, the wait is finally over. Pearson has established his name and found his team; he has a future in hockey and, at last, a set of optimistic expectations.
Once the amazement fades away and realization sinks in, though, Pearson—and the Kings, as well—will begin to understand the brilliance of Friday night's pick.
After all, Pearson could, despite his long wait, be the biggest steal of the entire first round.
The 6'0", 198-pound winger scored a whopping 37 goals and 91 points with the Barrie Colts of the OHL, finishing third in scoring in a junior league that produced 11 different first-round picks this year. While a broken fibula kept Pearson out of the playoffs, the flashy winger made his mark as one of the most productive prospects in all of Canadian junior hockey.
By comparison, No. 1 pick Nail Yakupov, playing for Sarnia of the OHL, tallied 69 points, a full 22 lower than Pearson. The 19-year-old simply slipped under the radar, tainted by a imperfect past and an overlooked set of skills.
But the Kings didn't make that mistake—and, in the process, may have found themselves a top-10 caliber player with the 30th selection.
While his pace has slowed slightly, Tanner Pearson continues to be an offensive threat every night. A classic late bloomer, Pearson found chemistry early in the season with the rest of his team and has not looked back since.
Pearson thinks the game on an extremely high level; he consistently makes great decisions with the puck and is able to thread passes through traffic with ease. He also does a great job in putting himself in great position; he is a player who the puck just seems to find time and time again.
Emotional comeback story aside, Pearson really does have all the attributes to be an NHL star for many decades.
He has the passing accuracy of Rick Nash, the deking ability of Pavel Datsyuk, and the offensive poise of Anze Kopitar.
He has the wrist shot of Marian Gaborik, the two-way play of Jordan Staal and the awareness and vision of Andrew Ladd.
And, to boot, the learning curve of Jeff Skinner.
What's not to like about Tanner Pearson?
Truthfully, we can't find anything.
Mark Jones is a Bleacher Report featured columnist. In four years with the site, he has written more than 390 articles and received over 525,000 reads.
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