Tanner Jeannot has added more firsts in his remarkable story that has taken him from the hockey arenas of southeast Saskatchewan to the NHL.
The Oxbow hockey product, who is in his first season with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, scored his first career NHL goal in the Preds’ 7-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on April 13.
Jeannot scored on a rebound with 5:26 to play in the third period. It was also Jeannot’s first point in the NHL, and it came on Jeannot’s first shot on goal in the big leagues.
“It was amazing. Something that every hockey player dreams of doing is being able to play and score in the NHL,” Jeannot told the Observer. “It’s definitely something that I’ve worked my whole life for, and it was just really special to have it be with the Preds, and with all of the guys. They all made it really good; they were all really happy for me.”
Jeannot was in on a forecheck that forced turnover. Teammate Yakov Trenin was in the slot when he took a shot that caused the rebound, and the puck came to Jeannot, who buried the opportunity on the open net.
“It wasn’t too much thinking, I was just going hard and I was fortunate to get the bounce,” said Jeannot.
Jeannot made his NHL debut in March. He’s in his third season in the Predators organization, having spent most of his first two seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL). So far this season, he has dominated the AHL, with 10 goals and 21 points in 13 games with the Chicago Wolves, which punched his ticket to the NHL.
“It was a pretty big, special experience my first game. My eyes were probably a little bit wide, getting out there for the first time. I didn’t play too much, but this time I feel a lot more confident, and I have been getting a little more ice time, which has been really good.”
It’s been a “crazy year,” he said.
“I just try to take it day by day and do everything I can to get better every single day,” said Jeannot. “If I continue to go with that mindset, I think good things will keep coming, and I’m a firm believer that hard work never goes unnoticed and always pays off in the end.”
The team has been great to play with. They have helped him feel welcome. When he played that first NHL game, he led the team onto the ice and took the rookie lap on his own for the pre-game warmup.
His success is a testament to his hard work. Not only was Jeannot never drafted into the NHL, but he wasn’t drafted into the Western Hockey League, either, but he went on to play four seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Dub, and parlayed that performance into a free agent contract with Nashville.
He’s never forgotten his roots. He started playing his minor hockey in Oxbow, and later moved to Estevan to play for AA teams.
“Every step along the way is just a big part of developing in your career. I started out in Oxbow as a little kid and found a love for the game, and continued to grow, and then I moved to Estevan. I had some good support and coaches there, and kept trying to get better and move along to the next level.”
And after he played his first NHL game, and after he scored that goal against Tampa, he received lots of congratulatory messages from people he knows in the southeast.
“After my first game, my phone was blowing up. I had so many messages of support, and everyone saying congratulations and that they’re proud, and everyone showing their support for me. And it was the same thing after I scored my first goal. It’s been really special to be able to see all those messages from back home. It’s been a little overwhelming. I’ve been trying to get back to everyone that I can.”
He hopes that young players in Saskatchewan and elsewhere realize that hard work never goes unnoticed, and they can keep trying to reach their goals and dreams.
“I just try to get myself better every day, and if that can be a good example for young kids that didn’t get drafted who are down, I went through all of that as well. I was never drafted into the WHL, and a lot of people I knew were, and lots of my friends were getting drafted, but I never was. I never gave up and ended up having all the same opportunities as those guys getting drafted.
“If you put the work in for something you really want, and you put the work in and keep being disciplined and following your dream, then anything’s possible.”