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It’s safe to say the Nashville Predators are a Cup contender. With a record of 48-15-10 (106 pts), the Predators are tied for most points in hockey with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After an agonizing Stanley Cup Finals loss, Nashville added depth to their team during the off-season and now they are about to add even more. While most contenders are more than willing to trade their 1st round pick for added help for a playoff push, Nashville clung to theirs last season. It was a gutsy move, but it paid off. With the 30th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Nashville took a player who perhaps could be the best player out of that draft: Eeli Tolvanen.
Who is he?
At the draft, Tolvanen (an 18 year old Finnish winger) had just finished his second season in the USHL (junior league for the United States). Playing with the Sioux City Muskateers, he showcased his scoring prowess, tallying 30 goals and 54 points in 52 games, while adding 10 points during a 13 game playoff run.
Tolvanen has always had a knack for scoring, though. Playing in his native Finland with the Espoo Blues U-16 squad, he produced 76 points (including 43 goals) in 28 games in 2013-14. In 2014-15, he produced 84 points in 41 games for the Blues’ U-18 team.
After being drafted by the Predators, Tolvanen elected to play in the KHL (Russia’s top hockey league) for one season, joining Jokerit in Helsinki, Finland. In his lone KHL season, he finished with 36 points (including 19 goals) in 49 games as a 19 year old. To put it in perspective, former NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk led the league with 63 points. Tolvanen’s 19 goals also tied him for 11th in scoring in the entire league. Furthermore, Tolvanen added 6 points (including 5 goals) in 10 playoff games. In December, he also added 6 points in 5 games for the World Junior Championship U-20 Finnish team.
Now that Jokerit has been eliminated from the KHL playoffs, Tolvanen is eligible and ready to join the Nashville Predators. Hockey fans have already received a taste of late season acquisitions in the NHL, as Ryan Donato has triumphantly started his career with the Bruins. That being said, Tolvanen is the real deal. While I wouldn’t expect him to start out with a hat trick in his debut, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised, especially since number 20 on Jokerit started his KHL career with 3 goals!
via Hockey Suomi
Why does it matter?
The Predators currently boasts the 8th highest scoring offense in the NHL and they possess a powerplay at 20.82%. Nashville also has four players with 20 goals or more-Viktor Arvidsson (27), Filip Forsberg (21), Kevin Fiala (23), and Craig Smith (21). Additionally, 13 of their players have 10 goals or more, which showcases Nashville’s depth. All of that has the potential to get better with Tolvanen. After today, the Predators have 8 games left in their season before the playoffs begin. If the Predators want to rest some of their top guys, Tolvanen is going to be the perfect guy to get experience and he might even contribute to their playoff run.
What is the ceiling on him?
Now, maybe Brett Connolly. Eventually, maybe Nikita Kucherov. Although he is just starting to develop as an 18 year old, I would expect him to show flashes of his potential. He has a great wrist shot and fantastic hockey sense. Keep your eye out for Eeli!
*All stats from Eliteprospects.com, en.khl.ru, and hockey-reference.com