Canucks' Tanner Pearson deserves some love for a quietly strong season

Mar 8 2022, 7:53 pm

The salary cap era has a massive influence on our opinion of players.

Tanner Pearson is a perfect example of that.

Considering where the Vancouver Canucks were last season at the trade deadline, it made far too much sense to trade Pearson.

So, when former Canucks general manager Jim Benning re-signed the winger to a senseless three-year deal at $3.25 million per season, the sentiment around Pearson seemed to plummet.

All of this makes it really easy to forget that Pearson is a good, useful hockey player.

Amidst this roller-coaster season and non-stop trade speculation, Pearson has quietly gone about having a strong campaign.

That much is true, even if you don’t like his contract.

Pearson stepping up at 5-on-5

Hands up if you thought Pearson would have more even-strength points than all of Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, and Brock Boeser at this point of the season.

I don’t think anyone would have believed that, but Pearson currently ranks third on the team with 21 points at 5-on-5, behind only J.T. Miller and Conor Garland.

Player GP Goals Total assists Total points
Conor Garland 52 12 16 28
J.T. Miller 55 11 14 25
Tanner Pearson 53 9 12 21
Bo Horvat 52 7 11 18
Quinn Hughes 53 4 13 17
Elias Pettersson 57 7 8 15
Vasily Podkolzin 54 10 5 15
Nils Hoglander 56 8 6 14
Brock Boeser 51 6 7 13
Juho Lammikko 50 6 6 12
Tyler Motte 42 5 7 12

His nine even-strength tallies rank fourth on the team, behind only Garland, Miller, and Vasily Podkolzin.

Since Bruce Boudreau took over, Pearson actually leads the Canucks with 2.25 points-per-60.

It’s easy just to believe that Pearson’s success is attributed to his linemates. On the season, his most common linemates (in order of time on-ice together) are Miller, Horvat, Garland, and Boeser.

Although those are all talented players, it hasn’t mattered who Pearson has played with. He’s able to drive possession, which is why his 53.7% expected goals-for trails only Pettersson during the Boudreau era.

He’s shown enough responsibility defensively to be saddled alongside Horvat during his time in Vancouver. Last season, the Canucks’ best line was those two playing alongside Nils Hoglander.

This season under Boudreau, the line of Boeser, Miller, and Pearson have been potent offensively. Their 3.11 expected goals per-60 is third among all Canucks line combinations (minimum 50 minutes played).

The line of Pearson, Horvat, and Garland haven’t generated as many chances, but they’ve actually scored more, and the trio is much better defensively.

All of this highlights Pearson’s quiet versatility on this Canucks team.

He’s not the player that’s going to drive his own line, but he’s got enough two-way intelligence and offensive zone awareness to play anywhere in the lineup.

Pearson’s play a mixed bag away from even-strength

During Pearson’s first year in Vancouver, he registered a career-high 45 points in just 69 games.

His point totals were boosted that season because he played on a relatively effective second power play unit that featured a mix of Adam Gaudette, Jake Virtanen, Josh Leivo, and Tyler Myers. He finished the season with an impressive 10 power play points despite limited minutes.

Pearson has just six power play points since then, including just three this season.

He’s often miscast as a centre on the second unit, signifying the Canucks need to add a versatile third-line pivot this offseason.

Nonetheless, his underlying numbers with the man advantage suggest he’s due for some better luck.

Pearson did play on the penalty kill regularly under Travis Green, but he hasn’t been afforded that same opportunity under Boudreau.

That being said, he’s still a clutch player at the end of games when the opposition pulls their goalie. He has two empty net goals this season, and his 11.4 goals-per-60 with the net empty is the third-highest rate in the league since the beginning of 2019-20.

Pearson’s trade value could be growing

No one would likely call Pearson’s contract a bargain, but it’s hard to say he’s overpaid based on how he’s performed this season.

The fact that he’s trusted defensively while scoring at a high-end second-line does make him full value on his $3.25 million salary.

According to Shayna GoldmanĀ andĀ Dom Luszczyszyn’s Player Cards at The Athletic, Pearson’s true contract value based on his play this season is actually $4 million.

Despite his strong play, the fact that he has a young family and a no-trade clause makes it unlikely that he’ll be moved this season.

That being said, this could be another example of a team trying to sell high on a player while he still has value.

In Pittsburgh, Jim Rutherford traded Pearson while his value was low. Could the Canucks swing a deal with his value on the rise?

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

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