TORONTO - Fate sometimes has a funny way of booting the good guys right in the, uh, tender parts.
I’m sure Barrie Colts forward Tanner Pearson is feeling more than a little sick this morning as the realization sets in that he won’t be on the ice when his teammates take on the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in the opening round of the playoffs later this week.
In fact, Pearson, the OHL’s third-leading scorer this season, won’t be on the ice at all for the next 8-12 weeks. Yep, the hockey gods — fate, whatever you want to call it — tapped the 19-year-old from Kitchener on the shoulder and told him to hit the showers early.
Pearson was playing in a meaningless game against the Brampton Battalion Saturday in Barrie, mere minutes from the end of the regular season, when he caught a rut while being hit and crumpled to the ice with a broken right fibula. The only question that needs to be answered now is whether he will need surgery to fix the break.
Actually, the only question I had to ask was simple — why the heck wasn’t the league’s third-leading scorer (37 goals, 54 assists) watching from the stands alongside Canadian junior teammate Mark Scheifele, Steven Beyers, Zach Hall, et al?
“It’s easy to look back on it that way,” Colts general manager Jason Ford said Monday. “There was about five guys who sat out that game. You can’t sit everybody. It was a freak play and it’s unfortunate for the kid. He’s really a great kid. But we think we have enough depth that we’re still going to be competitive.”
Pearson has been one of the better feel-good stories in the OHL this season. He’s gone from a relative unknown — 15 goals and 42 points as an 18-year-old — to one of the league’s best players, and a member of Team Canada, in the course of a year.
And then, just like that, it’s all over.
Sure, Pearson can finally look forward to hearing his name called at the NHL draft after being passed over twice before. But that’s little consolation for Pearson, who was pumped about finally playing a post-season game.
Now he will likely see his OHL career end with a big goose-egg in that category.
And that’s a damn shame.
MORE BAD NEWS, LEAF FANS
Toronto Maple Leaf fans should stop reading right here.
If not, this could very well turn your stomach.
Remember the trade that brought Phil Kessel to Toronto, the hotly-debated deal that divided Leafs Nation? Course you do. And it’s bad enough that the Bruins got Tyler Seguin (the second pick in the 2010 draft) in Burkie’s blockbuster, right?
Well, the second shoe to drop in the deal — the Leafs sent two first-round picks to Beantown in the trade for young Mr. Kessel — is Niagara IceDogs defenceman Dougie Hamilton. The Bruins drafted Hamilton ninth overall last summer, closing the book on the picks the Leafs sent east.
And this just in ... Dougie Hamilton is pretty good.
In a poll of the OHL’s coaches, Hamilton was voted the Eastern Conference’s best offensive defenceman for the second year running — he led all blueliners with 72 points (17 goals, 55 assists) in just 50 games — and was runner-up in the best defensive defenceman category. He finished plus-37 on the season, tied for third-best in the league with teammate Ryan Strome.
NHL watchers could see Hamilton in Boston black and gold as early as next season.
Even though he doesn’t turn 19 until the summer and is eligible to return to Niagara for another year, the Bruins expect him to battle for a spot with the big club at training camp. Plus, he’s already signed with the Bruins so the path has been cleared for him to jump to the NHL.
Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton for Phil Kessel? Yeah, thought that might make you feel a little queasy.
Expect the OHL to rubber-stamp Connor McDavid’s application for exceptional player status later this week.
McDavid, who just turned 15 in January, was the leading scorer and MVP at the OHL Cup over the weekend, even though his Toronto Marlboros minor midgets lost the final to the Mississauga Rebels. McDavid finished with 11 goals and eight assists in seven games.
There’s no way the OHL will deny McDavid early entry into the league, even though it will be the third time in the last eight years a player has been deemed “exceptional,” which seems to belie the definition. John Tavares in 2005 and Aaron Ekblad in 2011 are the other two who drafted a year early.
Yes, if you’re wondering, he’s that good. He was the best player on a team filled with OHL prospects, including Josh Ho-Sang, at one time the leading candidate to go first overall.
With the OHL draft moved up this year — it will be held April 7, a month earlier than normal — word should come soon, maybe even in the next couple of days, that McDavid will be eligible. Wonder how he looks in Erie Otters colours?