Tanner Jeannot is the most recent undrafted free agent to come into the Nashville Predators roster and make an impact. Like Mathieu Olivier before him, Jeannot is a product of the Predators prospect development pipeline, which is channeled through their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals (this season, Predators players and staff are with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves instead, as the Admirals organization opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns).
Earlier in the season, I had an opportunity to talk to Milwaukee head coach Karl Taylor, who went into detail about how he develops players. He considers that each player has a core set of values that makes them who they are as a player.
With the goal of preparing a player to make the leap to the NHL, Taylor focuses on adding layers to his players’ games in order to make them a complete player. By rounding out their skillset, when a player has the opportunity to play in an NHL game, they are able to play a complete game in order to earn more games, which will allow the player’s core values to shine through.
Eeli Tolvanen and Mathieu Olivier took advantage of their opportunities. A few games of Tolvanen’s smart play away from the puck allowed him to earn the chance to play even more games, which allowed his elite shooting to be on display. Soon, he was a fixture on the roster. Mathieu Olivier used his few games to play a sound defensive game, which then earned more games that allowed his physical, aggressive play to shine through. Before long, he was a fixture on the roster as well.
However, Tanner Jeannot put his core values on display almost immediately. Stepping into the injured Mathieu Olivier’s spot (after Michael McCarron was suspended for two games), he spent his first game teaching several members of the Dallas Stars to do cartwheels and screening the goalie. In his next game, against the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning, he continued to play with a strong physical edge, but also showed his ability to find the net.
For anyone familiar with Tanner Jeannot, this came as no surprise. When he was called up to Nashville, he was leading the Wolves with 10 goals and 11 assists in 13 games. He was (and is) carrying an eight-game goal streak and led the team in scoring. It’s also worth noting that before the AHL season started, he spent five games with the Predators’ ECHL affiliate Florida Everblades, where he had three goals and three assists.
With Tanner Jeannot making so much noise at every level of hockey this season, I wanted to find out more about him. So, I reached out to his AHL coach, Karl Taylor, to learn the story behind his success.
Taylor told me that while it’s impressive that Tanner Jeannot came to the AHL undrafted, it should also be known that he came to the WHL undrafted as well. As a result, Jeannot has earned everything he has when it comes to his hockey career: from tryouts to call-ups to contracts, nothing has been guaranteed.
Jeannot and Taylor started in Milwaukee at the same time. According to Taylor, the forward impressed him early with two things and he credits both of them for the recent success Jeannot has seen.
The first was that Jeannot is incredibly coachable. Coachability is a topic that comes up quite regularly in some discussions of highly touted prospects, and the downfall of many has been blamed on their lack of it. However, Tanner Jeannot regularly asks questions about what he can improve and how he can improve it, and then takes action to ensure that those improvements become reality. Taylor tells me about the time Jeannot was sent to the Everblades in the 2019-20 season for a three-game stint. Upon his return, Jeannot asked what specific things the player that was getting ice time ahead of him was doing, and then immediately took steps to integrate that element of the game into his toolbox.
At the same time, Taylor explains that the “layers” Jeannot needed to add to his game were to do with his skating and puck handling. Jeannot works daily on improving his skating, and worked regularly with Taylor and Assistant Coaches Greg Rallo and Scott Ford on his puck handling skills while he was in the AHL. This allowed him to round out his game so when he got the opportunity to play in the NHL, he played a complete enough game to earn more time.
The other thing that stood out to Karl Taylor is that Tanner Jeannot is very aware that he’s just a regular guy chasing a dream. He takes nothing for granted and, as a result, relishes every opportunity he gets to succeed. He’s personable, friendly, and takes the business of being a professional athlete very seriously.
About 2 years ago, Tanner Jeannot threw Caelan a puck at #PredsDevCamp. Tonight, we let him stay up to watch Tanner play and he got to see his first NHL goal! Congratulations from the tiny fan you made two years ago! Kids remember! @PredsNHL @mkeadmirals @Chicago_Wolves pic.twitter.com/yKuUf09b4z— Shaun C. Smith (@SCSOTF) April 14, 2021
Taylor goes on to explain that when Jeannot played on a line in Milwaukee with Olivier, “They would absolutely dominate the offensive zone and extend plays. They would hold onto pucks. Those two guys on the wings were just outstanding at extended plays in the offensive zones. So they would allow us to grind teams down. We could double up on teams and put out our so-called scoring lines after they followed those guys, which created situations where our team had a clear advantage.”
He goes on to explain that what we see on the fourth line in Nashville, albeit with Colton Sissons at center and Yakov Trenin on the wing, is exactly what they did in Milwaukee. He referred to them then as the “identity” line, which is a term we’ve heard Predators Coach John Hynes use to describe the fourth line this season in Nashville as well.
To close, Taylor revisited his coaching philosophy to reiterate that his goal is to help players maximize their ceiling, whatever it may be. As far as Jeannot goes, he stresses, “He’s an outstanding young man and he’s put in the work to earn everything that comes to him.” It’s safe to say that Coach Taylor would love to have him back on his team, but hopes he doesn’t get the chance—because Tanner Jeannot will continue to go out and earn it on the ice for Predators every time he laces up his skates.