Can Tanner Jeannot build on an impactful season?

The rookie’s 2022 was impressive, but there were some concerns.

As we approach the start of the 2022-23 NHL season, On The Forecheck is taking an in-depth look at expectations for each Nashville Predators player for the new season. Today, we’re taking a look at forward Tanner Jeannot.

2021-22 Recap:
Regular Season: 81 GP, 24 G, 17 A, 41 P, CF (5v5) 48.0%, 15:59 ATOI
Playoffs: 4 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, CF (5v5) 37.5%, 17:07 ATOI

Heading into the 2021 postseason, when the Preds took on the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round, I listed Jeannot—who’d made his NHL debut in March of that year—as a player to keep an eye on in that series.

I was wrong about the series, where Jeannot fizzled like the rest of the team, but he arrived in the 2021-22 NHL season determined to make up for it.

This past season, Jeannot led rookies leaguewide in goals scored, with 24. That’d be impressive on its own, but he did it playing under 16 total minutes a game, without the advantage of either high-scoring teammates (he spent the most time by far with Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin) or weak competition (their line was regularly matched up against opponents top six F/top four D, and given relatively few OZ starts).

He was also one of the Preds’ most-used penalty killers, with almost a sixth of his total icetime this season spent shorthanded, and did very well defensively there. Using Natural Stat Trick’s expected goals metric, he managed to limit the opponents’ scoring threat per hour better than any of his teammates who were penalty-kill regulars. He wasn’t much of a threat to counterattack, but he did help make it easier on the Preds’ goalies when they were shorthanded, which happened a lot.

The problem is that one of the reasons it happened a lot was Jeannot himself. He had 130 penalty minutes this season, neatly taking himself off the ice—both the very real scoring threat he provided from the fourth line, from which he was sixth on the team in points and fourth in goals, and whatever help he could give the penalty killers—for that time.

There’s an ongoing argument about the role of fighting in hockey, which is frankly impossible to do justice to in a season overview of a single player. Briefly, the people in favor argue that fighting is fun to watch and important for morale, and the people against argue that it’s dangerous and teams either have to dress a bad player to fight or lose a good player to the penalty box.

Jeannot got into 14 fights this past season (and did very well in most of them). Even if we accept for the sake of argument that all 14 of those fights were necessary and worthwhile, he still took 24 additional minor penalties, plus a two-minute minor and a misconduct for instigating a fight. The 48 PIM just from those non-fight-related minors alone still leave him sixth on the team in PIM, and that’s not the kind of stat you want one of your most reliable penalty killers to be leading in.

I would like to see Jeannot play a more disciplined game this season. He has some undeniable talent, and he’s a lot of fun to watch, but he’s more fun to watch when he’s on the ice, not in the penalty box.

He finished the 2021-22 season on an ice-cold scoring streak, going the last 12 games without a point. The Preds were struggling at the same time, and the two things might have fed into each other. Nothing Jeannot has done has suggested that he’s the kind of player able to score totally at will, without any help from his teammates, the way the best players in the league do—but the Preds and their fans got used to the Jeannot-Sissons-Trenin line being able to go out there, make some trouble, and get some offense going all the same. That cold streak probably cost him a spot as a Calder finalist but hopefully won’t be a sign of things to come.

I don’t think it has to be. There was some real talent on display for some of Jeannot’s goals this season, as well as the tenacity and drive that first caught my eye in 2021. Sure, he’s probably not going to be a career 20% shooter—almost nobody in the NHL is—and he’s had some luck to get this past season’s 24 goals, but he’s also demonstrated repeatable skill.

One Bold Prediction

It might seem the opposite of bold to say that I think we see a similar season from Jeannot next year, but I think we do. I doubt he will stop fighting, which means he’s also likely to continue both playing a little over the line of what’s allowed and not getting the benefit of the doubt when he’s still on the right side of it. At the same time, I think he’s going to keep producing offensively.

If he can improve his possession game, he could produce a lot more offensively; he hasn’t been great in raw shot share and he’s been pretty average in terms of shot quality. His usage accounts for some of it but not all. Improve that, and he might start making his way off the fourth line entirely.