When Mark Scheifele was selected seventh overall by Winnipeg in 2011, it marked the start of the second consecutive draft in which his Barrie Colts teammate, Tanner Pearson, would go unselected.
A versatile and creative forward who kicked the tires of NCAA hockey and spent two years playing Junior B after having been selected in the 14th round of the 2008 OHL Priority Selection, Pearson offered a lukewarm effort to support being drafted. He posted 42 points in his first major junior season after establishing himself as a consistent threat in Junior B and took time to develop under head coach and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Dale Hawerchuk.
"I don't think I was really ready enough, especially my first year after I got drafted to the OHL," Pearson said. "I was pretty small and I wasn't probably the greatest skater back then."
That all changed with a breathtaking 2011-12 season as Pearson exploded for 91 points as a 19-year old in Barrie, demonstrating the skill, creativity and character that meshed together to make him an ideal selection for the Los Angeles Kings with the 30th and final pick of the first round on June 23.
On Friday, Los Angeles signed Pearson to a three-year entry level contract.
"The puck explodes off his stick with a natural goal scoring touch. That was a very intriguing skill set for us," Kings director of amateur scouting Mark Yannetti said following day one of the draft.
It was actually an encounter with the Kings hockey operations that spurred Pearson towards the major junior route, a direction he had already been leaning.
"When I was debating to go NCAA or OHL, Howie Campbell, the owner of the Barrie Colts, had me up for a game," Pearson said. "He was in a box with Los Angeles director of amateur scouting Mike Futa. So he kind of left me alone with Mike, and he kind of told me how good the OHL was. It was then that I kind of made my full decision with them to go to the OHL."
When the Kings called Pearson's name at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, it was Futa at the podium.
The entry level contract he signed was in reflection of the perseverance and character he showed throughout his development, which wasn't derailed by a freak broken ankle on the final game of the OHL season and shouldn't be an issue come training camp.
"There was a lot of what appealed to us, the character, and what we value as a personal makeup. He has that in spades. He's a character kid," Yannetti said.
The two-way patience between Pearson and the Colts was clearly rewarded through a breakthrough 2011-12 season, one in which he operated at a point-a-game pace the World Junior Championships, with whom he won a bronze medal alongside Scheifele for Canada. Pearson finished third in OHL scoring with 91 points, a tally he racked up in 60 games.
Though Kyle Clifford, another former Barrie Colt, earned a spot on the 2010-11 Kings as a 19-year old by virtue of a rugged training camp, the same shouldn't be expected of the soon-to-be 20 year old Pearson, whose Kitchener neighborhood is 30 minutes away from Clifford's hometown of Ayr, Ontario. The two are friends who get on the ice together several times each off-season.
Pearson is cognizant of his options. Though he's eligible to return to Barrie, a likelier destination would be Manchester of the American Hockey League. Making the NHL out of training camp remains his lofty if unlikely goal, considering the roster that will return intact after having won the Stanley Cup nearly two months ago.
"If that fails, I'll go and try my hardest to make the AHL," Pearson said. "I think I want to play pro hockey, even if it is the AHL, and develop for a year or two there and learn the Kings' system and eventually make my jump to the NHL."
Should he be assigned to Manchester, the Monarchs will be getting an interesting skater listed as a left wing though comfortable at all three forward positions and with an interesting touch of hockey acumen.
"He's got that uncanny sense and quickness just to be in the right place at the right time," said Dan Marr, NHL director of Central Scouting during the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Growing up, that right place seemed to be the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, where he grew up following his hometown Rangers and appreciating the play of one particular Kings center.
"Being a Kitchener boy, I always watched Mike Richards growing up when he played for the Rangers," Pearson said. "I was able to meet him a couple of times, which was fun back then. To see him and to be with him on the same ice will be something fun."
Fun? It's an encouraging thought in the summer. Come training camp, he's got work to do.
"It's going to be a tough team to make, but I'm going to go there and play my game and see where that takes me."