Veteran praises defenceman Sedley for his strong rookie season with Attack
By Pat Payton
OWEN SOUND – Kaleb Pearson would like to play his overage year in Owen Sound in 2020-21.
The St. Marys native, who turns 20 next month, has played the last two Ontario Hockey League seasons with the Attack.
“That’s the plan; I would like to finish my (Junior) career there,” Pearson said in a recent interview with the Independent. “Joey Hishon got me there, and (Attack GM) Dale DeGray, too. I really want to see how far we can go.”
Pearson joined Owen Sound following an outstanding 2017-18 season with the Stratford Jr. ‘B’ Warriors. He was named Midwestern Conference rookie-of-the-year after scoring 39 goals and finishing with 67 points in 49 games. Those numbers obviously caught Hishon’s attention.
Hishon, a Stratford native and former Attack player (2007-11), is an assistant coach on the bench and also the team’s assistant GM. Hishon was a first-round pick of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche in 2010, but severe concussion symptoms and other injuries cut short a promising career.
Pearson skated at Hishon’s hockey clinics last summer in Stratford, and he’s hoping to do the same again this summer. Current pros and other OHL players attend Hishon’s skills clinics.
To stay in good shape during these challenging times, Pearson has been working out on-line, Monday to Friday each week. The instructor is Dylan Campion, a strength and conditioning coach in Stratford.
“It’s a high-performance program,” Pearson says. “We go on Zoom, and Dylan runs us through good workouts every day. I’m up at 8:30 and we start the workouts at 9 a.m. I probably work out for an hour and a half.”
Pearson also does weight training as well as roller-blading. “I just go for a skate and keep my legs going. I also get a ball or a puck and do some stick-handling. I want to stay ahead of the pack.”
It was a breakout season for Pearson in 2019-20. The sophomore right winger had 28 goals and 52 points in 62 OHL games. When the season was cut short March 13 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, he was on pace to double his points total from his rookie season.
Execution important in Jr. ‘A’
Pearson was asked to describe the style of play at the Major Jr. ‘A’ level, and how it differs from Jr. ‘B’ hockey.
“I’m sure everybody is going to say the pace is higher in Jr. ‘A’ and it’s a much faster game and you have to think faster,” he replied. “But I think it’s also execution. In Owen Sound, Tanger (coach Alan Letang) is always saying that we have to execute, make smart plays and don’t give the puck away easily. Tanger is always preaching that we’re a puck possession team and we don’t want to give that puck away.”
Pearson says one of the biggest adjustments he’s had to make at the Jr. ‘A’ level is thinking quicker.
“You have to make plays as fast as you can,” he says. “I play against a bunch of NHL prospects (in the OHL) and they’re always on top of their game . . . every game. You have to be sharp and ready to go every game. I know what I can do, but I have to go out and prove it every shift. It’s a mental battle.”
Hishon says Pearson has strong potential to play professional hockey and has been attracting attention from NHL teams.
“In addition to his skating ability and his shot, Kaleb brings a physical element to his game that makes him a presence and makes him reliable at the next level,” he says. “Kaleb has the ability to run people over and he can make his presence felt that way, too.
“That is what’s unique about Kaleb. There’s a lot of guys with good shots and they skate well, but he also has a physical presence. When he brings that, he’s one of the most effective players in the league.”
NHL scouts calling
Hishon says he gets more calls about Pearson, who is undrafted, than any other Attack player.
“I can tell you without a doubt, I get more calls from NHL scouts about Kaleb than any other player I work with,” he said. “I know there’s a ton of interest out there, whether he’ll be drafted or not only time will tell. But I think if he continues to do the things that he’s doing, he’ll definitely get an opportunity at some point.”
Pearson admits that he’s hoping to get invited to a pro rookie camp prior to the start of next season.
“I’d like to get out there and make a mark for myself,” he says. “Hopefully, I’ll get some interest.
“I want to play pro hockey; it’s been a dream of mine since I was young. I’ve been striving to get to that level my whole life.”
Praises rookie defenceman Sedley
Pearson, meanwhile, also heaped a lot of praise on rookie defenceman Sam Sedley. The Attack’s fourth-round draft pick in 2019, Sedley spent the entire season in Owen Sound. The 16-year-old St. Marys native played in 42 games and demonstrated he can play at the Major Jr. ‘A’ level, Pearson said.
“From the first day of camp, Sam clicked with everybody,” Pearson said. “He’s a good guy in the room and one of the funniest guys on the team.
“On the ice, he’s a really skilled kid who improves every day. He makes smart plays in the games, and he’s really consistent. He’s good in the ‘D’ zone, and he loves the offensive zone. He’s just a great all-round player, and we’re really glad to have him on the team. He’s got a lot of potential to be a really great player in this league.”
Hishon is another big fan of Sedley’s.
“I absolutely love Seds,” Hishon said. “What makes Seds such a special player is his hockey sense. I think it’s the most important thing you can have as a player and Sam is just oozing with hockey sense. He thinks the game as well as anybody I’ve worked with. He sees the game really well and makes the game look pretty easy.
“That’s the biggest compliment I can give a player is when they go out on the ice, and they’re physically smaller than everyone else, but they still make things happen. And they make it look easy when they’re doing it. I think the sky’s the limit for Seds. I’m very excited to watch him grow as a player and a person.”
Going forward, Hishon said Sedley must now get physically stronger and increase his off-ice workouts. “He has to put the time in and spend more time in the gym and get his body physically stronger.
“Both Kaleb and Sam are great kids, and it’s such a pleasure for me to work with them,” he added.