At the end of last season, Tanner Pearson's hand was still in a stiff brace, more than five months after it was initially injured.
“I’m just trying to get my hand back,” said Pearson. “I’m just trying to go home and be a dad and be with my kids and be able to play at the moment. It sucks.”
What seemed like a minor injury saw setback after setback, to the point that the NHLPA got involved and two NHL insiders, Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger, raised concerns about his ability to play in the future.
All Pearson would say about the initial setback that saw him undergo a second procedure on his hand was that he "ran into a speedbump."
Evidently, Pearson's offseason was a much smoother road. Pearson has been back on the ice with his Vancouver Canucks teammates for a couple of weeks now and looks none the worse for wear.
Almost the entire Canucks roster is now skating at UBC, with Pearson skating hard and taking contact with no apparent issues.
It seems certain that Pearson will be at training camp in Victoria. Barring a disastrous performance in training camp and the preseason, Pearson is likely to start the season with the Canucks.
That also means Pearson's $3.25 million cap hit will start the season with the Canucks. That's not an unforeseen possibility for the Canucks, who have a few different options for getting cap compliant by opening night, the easiest being a 22-man roster rather than a full 23-man roster.
There's also always the possibility that someone gets injured during the preseason and goes on LTIR to start the year. Ilya Mikheyev's readiness is also in question.
Pearson's return will be welcomed on the ice, where he plays the type of strong-on-the-walls game that head coach Rick Tocchet loves. It's easy to imagine Pearson battling with Anthony Beauvillier for ice time in the top six alongside J.T. Miller or fitting into a third-line checking role with Pius Suter.
His return will make it harder for the likes of Nils Höglander, Dakota Joshua, and Philip Di Giuseppe to get ice time, as the Canucks have a wealth of wingers on the roster.
Before his injury-shortened 2022-23 season, Pearson had 34 points in 68 games in 2021-22, good for seventh in team scoring.