Jeannot of the Predators Undrafted Making His Case to the Calder

It’s a story like none other in Nashville Predators history, and one likely to never be repeated.

Undrafted players succeeding in the National Hockey League isn’t an uncommon practice. From Hall of Fame Inductees Dino Ciccarelli, Adam Oates and Ed Belfour to current players such as Sergei Bobrovsky and Yanni Gourde, there have been many outstanding athletes who were overlooked in the draft.

For Nashville, we’ve seen Rich Peverley and Vernon Fiddler go on to have decent careers after going undrafted and signing with the Predators, and Cody McLeod, an undrafted veteran, played a handful of games with the team after spending his first ten seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. Both he and Fiddler would be a part of a Predators’ fourth-line that created mayhem.

Then, there’s Tanner Jeannot.

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Jeannot, at 24, is among the top-10 scoring rookies. He joins Jonathan Dahlen (24 years old) and 26-yearold Michael Bunting (26 years). Jeannot, who was on his final year of an entry-level contract, appeared in 15 games and scored five goals, while getting just over 12 minutes of icetime. His shooting percentage was shockingly high at 21.7%, with 5 goals on 23 shots. However, fans loved his versatility and play. He was a 23-yearold who could not just score on the bottom six, but also could block shots and drop the gloves when necessary. He was a true power forward. His efforts earned him both a two-year contract and a slight increase in salary. Predators fans now have hope for a deeper team as they head into the 2021-22 season. The next step was something that Nashville fans have come to love, as well as everyone else in the league.

Tanner Jeannot (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images).

Jeannot filled the gap on the third line after Mathieu Olivier was injured. Jeannot was retained in the team-up despite Olivier being reactivated due to his play with Yakov Trenin (coach) and Colton Sissons (coach). Olivier was sent down to the AHL last week, and Jeannot hasn’t looked back since.

With injuries and COVID-19 protocols, Nashville’s roster has become somewhat depleted. Filip Forsberg, the latest victim of the virus, left a glaring hole on the team’s top-six, and who else but Jeannot to step in and fill the void. Jeannot’s first game as a second-line player, along with Mikael Granlund, and Matt Duchene was a Jeannot-esque game. A goal with one shot, two hits and two blocks, as well as a minor penalty and misconduct.

It’s what the crowd in Nashville has grown used to. He is a big, tough forward who can score goals and punch faces. It almost seems too good to be true to consider him for a Calder Trophy nomination… or is it?

His Competition

There are many excellent candidates for Rookie-of-the Year in the 2021-22 season. Two of the most promising young players in Detroit, Lucas Raymond forward and Moritz Seider defenseman, are among the top rookies for points. Raymond, who was 19 years old when he joined the Red Wings roster. Jakub Virana was replaced on Detroit’s top line, playing with Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin. The next step was extraordinary. He quickly became a major reason why the Red Wings are still in contention for a wildcard spot. On the other side of the coin, Seider has showcased his full ability on the blue line, quickly becoming Detroit’s best defenseman in under half a season.

Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings
Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings (Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images).

Anaheim Ducks’ own 1-2 rookie combination features forward Trevor Zegras (who closes out the top three in rookie scoring) and defenseman Jamie Drysdale. Zegras is one of the most entertaining players in the league, and not only in the Western Conference. Whether he’s Setting a goal for the year or gliding up and down the ice with his dangles and crossovers, he’s quickly become a player everyone wants to watch on a nightly basis. Drysdale has been a steadying presence at the back-end, having gone from 25 minutes per night playing with the Erie Otters, to 18-20 minutes per night playing with the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are now able to play in games they do not belong to because of Drysdale’s calm, mature style.

Then there’s Jeannot, who quietly lurks the rookie scoring race, sitting fourth in points. Just one point behind Seider, it’s not impossible he ends up finishing top-3, but how good are his chances of being a finalist for the Calder? It’s a mix of number crunching and ability to aid his team to achieve the ultimate goal, something we take a look at and break down to see what his potential of competing with the likes of Raymond, Zegras, and Seider.

The Leaderboard

We will start with the most obvious numbers: Assists, Goals, and points. We also look at metrics such as even-strength contributions in comparison to powerplay or shorthanded statistics. While very basic to begin with, it sets the stage for just how close the rookie race can end up being by the season’s end. The limit for minimum games played is set to 25, here’s what the numbers tell us.

Referring to GoalsJeannot is at the top of the leaderboard

  1. Jeannot (11)
  2. Raymond (10)
  3. Zegras (8)
  4. Mercer (9)
  5. Dahlen (8)
  6. Bunting (7)

Picking up is the most important thing. AssistsHe ranks just outside of the top-5

  1. Seider (20)
  2. Raymond (20)
  3. Zegras (18)
  4. Bunting (13)
  5. Drysdale (13)
  6. Jeannot (11)

Jeannot, as we mentioned earlier, is in the top-5. Points:

  1. Raymond (30).
  2. Zegras (27)
  3. Seider (23)
  4. Jeannot (22)
  5. Bunting (20)
  6. Mercer (20).

Of Jeannot’s 11 goals this season, 10 have come at even-strength. This places him in the top three among rookies in this statistic, three more than Raymond, Dahlen Dawson Mercer and Anton Lundell. Jeannot is 4th among rookies in points and goals, but he averages just 0:23 powerplay time. Raymond is at 2:42. Seider, however, leads all rookies in this regard with 2:47. Jeannot is the only player to average at least two minutes of powerplay ice. Jeannot is unbeatable in his ability to use fisticuffs to provide a spark or retribution.

Jeannot’s average shorthanded time on the ice is 2:25, which ranks him fourth among rookies. Jeannot’s innate abilities to use his body to separate players from the puck or to block shots, paired with his mindfulness when using his stick to take away passing lanes, has made him one of the better penalty killers in the league.

And don’t get us started on zone starts.

Although these statistics are from Jan 5, 2005, the stories they tell are worth telling.

Mr. Jeannot would love a word. Raymond tied with Raymond in goals with 10. While having almost no Powerplay time. It is heavily relied upon to kill penalty. Second in the league for fighting majors. Tanner is as valuable, if not more than any of the rookies in this class.

Jeannot remains at the top of the goals leaderboard, despite spending less than half of his shifts on the defensive zone. He averages a total of 15:37 time on ice, which is 11th among all rookies, playing on a third line with Sissons and Trenin while his competition eats up top-six minutes with some of their team’s best points producers.

Oh, and he has 114 hits and leads all rookies. Martin Fehervary is the player in 2nd with 90. As we said, this is a real power forward.

Realistic Approach

With all that said, it’s going to be a difficult argument to make in Jeannot’s case when compared to his competition. Although his offensive play has been quite impressive, his defense has been less successful. Particularly due to the high amount of defensive-zone starts, and quality of competition, facing opposition’s better forwards and working the penalty kill, Jeannot can be exposed to this if detractors want to find a negative spin on his play.

Generally speaking, the scale always tips in favour of statistical category leaders and while we can consider Jeannot’s spot in the goals department, his 20% shooting percentage will be hard to maintain, and so be it his hold on the scoring lead. When compared to players like Raymond and Zegras, who both get ample time on the powerplay and Seider’s workhorse schedule of 20+ minutes a night, it seems like only a matter of time before Jeannot loses that grip and falls behind one or two of these rookies. While a top-3 or top-5 finish is realistic, barring any major injury or pandemic protocol that side-lines him for an extended period of time, his participation in the Calder Trophy race isn’t as appealing as some of the bigger names.

Tanner Jeannot Nashville Predators
Tanner Jeannot, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers

There’s the top-6 forwards with flashy hands and highlight-reel goals, defensemen who log big minutes and numbers, and then there’s Jeannot; a reliable bottom-six player who can be a consistent, reliable player that can score goals and throw big hits and bigger punches. Are his chances of being a rookie of the Year a certainty? No. But, should he be? Absolutely. He may be the only rookie to play in post-season action out of the five top rookies. An observation that often goes overlooked when considering a player’s worth in individual awards.

Jeannot is a household name in Nashville, whether he wins the Calder Trophy. One that won’t soon be forgotten, and one that fans across the league will recognize as the season, and his career, continue.

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