May 18, 2013 1:17 pm

Introducing Tanner Pearson

It isn’t a certainty, though it does appear that 20-year-old Tanner Pearson will be making his NHL debut for tonight’s Game 3 between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. During line rushes, he skated alongside opposite Brad Richardson on a line centered by Colin Fraser.

I spoke with Pearson exclusively yesterday about his progress within the program and joined his thoughts with quotes from today’s media availability in this post. I also recently spoke with Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall – who also serves as the General Manager of the Manchester Monarchs – about the player whom the Kings selected with the 30th overall pick at last June’s NHL Entry Draft.

FRIDAY

On the ease at which he handled the transition from junior hockey to pro hockey:
“I think I just got more used to the situation around me. At the start of the year, obviously I didn’t know what to expect at fiurst. But as the year went on and as I started playing more and getting more opportunity, I just rolled with it and it ended up helping me out.”

On the chemistry with Linden Vey and Tyler Toffoli on his AHL line:
“The three of us, we sync pretty well. We’re all kind of the same age, so we kind of know each other. I mean, Toff and I knew each other playing against each other, and Vey’s just a real easy guy to get used to playing with. We’re three different types of players. Toff’s a pure shooter. Veysey’s the passer, and I’m kind of the guy that goes hard and forechecks. I don’t mind my role, and it ended up working out for us.”

On how he improved his shot:
“I think just a lot of shooting-pucks-in-the-summer-type-thing. I used to use a pretty small curve, and I changed to a bigger one two years ago, which helped me because with the smaller curve, you get more handling with the wrists, and then when you change, you don’t have to put much into it. That helped me. It’s been working for me and I haven’t changed since.”

On whether the possibility of making his debut in the playoffs crossed his mind:
“I’m not looking too much into it, but being here with the guys is awesome. The guys are great, and they’re treating me really well, so I can’t complain where I’m at right now. I’m just going to practice and do my thing and we’ll see what happens.

On the defensive aspects he’s in the process of developing:
“I think that was the biggest transition, going from junior to pro. Everyone’s so much better. You’ve got to be so much more aware of what’s going on around you. So that was the big transition coming up to pro, but I think as the year went on, I got more aware of what was going on, and it helped me out.”

On having Kyle Clifford, a friend and fellow Barrie Colt who hails from the same region of Ontario, in the locker room:
“It’s nice to have a familiar face, but in regards to that, I can go up to anybody and ask them anything. [I was] playing with Muzz and Kinger and Noley for a period of time. Everyone’s pretty nice up here, so if I have any questions, there’s always a helping hand.”

SATURDAY

On potentially making his debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
“Probably just take it shift by shift, not try to do too much out there. Just keep it simple and see how it goes.”

On whether he got any advice from players in the room:
“Yeah, the guys have been pretty good. They’re all saying pretty much the same thing – just be patient and let the chances come to you, that kind of thing.”

On what the coaches have said they’re looking for:
“Just strong wall plays and not making mistakes and just playing strong defensively.”

On Tyler Toffoli’s success at the NHL level and the comfort level between the two:
“Absolutely. It’s nice to see a familiar face around here, someone that went through the same situation this year. We’ve become pretty close and he’s helping me out.”

On how his AHL experience has benefited him:
“It was a big change from junior – living on your own, that kind of thing, and not knowing what to expect coming into a new league. Everything’s so much more defensive on the ice, so you have to be more aware of what’s going on around you. I’ll see what the NHL is like.”

On plays developing quicker in the NHL:
“Yeah, talking to Toff and all the guys here – and Gallagher in Montreal, we’re pretty close. He had a pretty good year, so I can talk to anybody I want.”

On what he has learned from taking part in practices and morning skates with the Kings:
“Just everything’s so much more of an up-pace kind of structure. It’s just go, go, go, do your work, and get out of there. It’s nice, and hopefully it translates.”

On whether the comfort level has grown since joining the team:
“Yeah, I was probably pretty shy coming in here, just being a quiet guy and just watching everyone. But as a couple days went on, everyone’s been great to me and they’re helping me out.”

On whether anything has surprised him yet:
“No, not really. It’s a lot of the same from junior to pro to here. They’re all kind of the same guys on and off the ice, so it’s not that big of a difference.”

On whether he had a moment over the course of the season where he realized he could make his debut soon:
“No, I was coming up to be a black ace, just expecting to skate with them. Nelly the the development guy told me the one day that I was going to start practicing, and then a few injuries happened. So I guess anything can happen, and we’ll see tonight what happens.”

On whether a potential debut this quickly exceeds his own expectations:
“If you had asked me three years ago, or said that I’d be playing my first NHL game in three years, I would have taken it in a heartbeat, but I probably wouldn’t have believed you. To see it happen so quick, it’s going to be very exciting.”

On whether he understands Darryl Sutter when he speaks:
“Yeah, I actually do. He’s not bad talking, but yeah, I understand him.”

MAY 8

Assistant GM Ron Hextall, on whether Pearson’s first professional season was encouraging:
“Absolutely. I think if you look at our future, the left side is the one spot that we’re a little bit light up front, and Tanner certainly played in the mix there in terms of top prospects. He’s a big body. He’s a strong kid. He’s got good hands. He’s got a real good shot, and his vision is pretty good. He plays a big, power forward type of game. He’s not necessarily…one of those guys that plays with an edge, but he plays hard and he can play physical, so we’re really excited about the prospects of him again. He’s going to score. He’s going to score some goals. He’s got some things to learn in terms of the defensive play, which all the young players do. But it’s his first year, and I think defensive responsibility, he needs to improve. His fitness and nutrition need to improve. He needs to get a little bit quicker. But he did a great job, and you look at all those young guys – I mean, him and Toffoli in particular – their transition from junior to the American League was almost seamless.”

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