Penguins’ Unsung Hero Brandon Tanev

The Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby. They also have Evgeni Malkin. Do not forget about Kris Letang. Those players win championships. Or do they? Is it the players on the bottom six that go to the dirty areas and penalty killers that win Stanley Cups? Players like Brandon Tanev fit that bill and that is why he is the most underrated Penguin.

Tanev, with a 1991 New Year’s Eve birthday, is not a monster at 6-foot and 181 pounds. He is neither a tough guy nor a Hart Trophy candidate. However, he is the heart and soul of the Penguins and the reason why the bottom six is a force to be reckoned with. He gives stability, but he is hardly forgotten.

Tanev is versatile enough to play either left or right-wing, or on any line, and gives that line representation. Speed kills and he uses his greatest asset to his advantage whenever he is on the ice. He uses that blazing speed to kill penalties, backcheck and create chances in the offensive zone. His motor is non-stop — he never gives up on any play and is never out of position.

He is an excellent two-way winger who can play a 200-foot game every night. Since Day 1 he has shown his competitive side by never giving up and always moving his feet. Along with exceptional speed, he also cycles well and has great positioning. He also adds a little sandpaper to his game, playing that gritty style that Penguins fans love. He also brings out the best in his teammates, whoever they may be.

Hard Work Paying Off

Brandon, the brother of Calgary Flames defenseman Chris Tanev, came to the NHL through hard work and discipline. After going undrafted, he chose to sign with the Winnipeg Jets. A point producer from his U15 days to his final days in the NCAA with Providence College, he found out that he would be able to produce. However, at the NHL level, he would have to add the defensive aspect to his game. Although he adapted well, he still set a career-high of 29 points on 14 goals and 15 assists in 80 games, while posting a plus-9 and accumulating 41 penalty minutes.

Brandon Tanev Pittsburgh Penguins
Brandon Tanev, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tanev is not expected back until playoff time with an undisclosed injury. This was a bad time for this to happen as he was on pace for a career-high in points. This season he recorded seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 32 games, along with a plus-12. His career NHL totals are as follows: 42 goals, 50 assists for 92 points in 295 games, and is also a career plus-27. He is under contract with the Penguins until 2024-25.

Why is he so important to the Penguins’ organization? There is nothing he cannot do on the ice. Regular shift? Check. Penalty kill? Check. Power play? Check. If he is on the ice, something good will happen. He does not allow the opposition space to operate and suffocates opposing chances with his air-tight defense on the penalty kill. His defense often turns into offense and quality chances. The best thing Winnipeg did was not re-sign him. The best thing Pittsburgh did was sign him.

Every team in the NHL wants a prolific scorer like Crosby and a Hall of Fame defenseman like Letang. How many people want a player like Tanev on their team? Those players are the ones who ultimately win Stanley Cups and yet are not given the full credit they deserve. We should all take the time to appreciate Tanev, the most underrated Penguin, for doing the hard work and going into the dirty areas that most players would not dare go into. Why is he underrated? He gives 110% every night and gives up his body to make sure the team is successful. The next time you watch the Penguins, pay attention to his game, his dedication, and the passion he has for the game. His all-around talent makes him a Penguin to the truest form.