Nashville Predators’ first Round draft pick Eeli Tolvanen has been a star since being selected in June. Poile is eyeing a 2018 debut for his top prospect.
Back in June, the Nashville Predators selected 18-year-old Finnish winger Eeli Tolvanen with the 30th overall pick in the NHL Draft. Tolvanen was listed as the 8th best skater in the draft by NHL Central Scouting, yet he fell into Nashville’s arms at #30.
Eeli had spent the previous two seasons in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers, where he compiled 92 points in 101 games, respectively. After being drafted by the Predators, Tolvanen signed with the KHL’s Helsingin Jokerit. Tolvanen has played 39 games with Jokerit thus far, tallying 17 goals and 15 assists.
He has been KHL Rookie of the Week five times, KHL Rookie of the Month twice, and just received an All-Star nomination…all at 18 years old. Tolvanen is currently playing for Team Finland at the World Junior Championship, where he has two points in two games.
Tolvanen is under contract with Jokerit for this season, with an option for another year. The KHL season lasts until March 1st, but with Jokerit currently in 3rd place, a playoff run seems imminent. If Jokerit were to make it to the championship, that could keep Eeli in the KHL until April 26th.
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GM Poile recently said that, “We certainly would like to make contact with the player in terms of what his thought process would be to sign a contract sooner than later”.
After an incredible rookie season that still has two more months, Poile said that, “I think based on what he’s accomplished so far this year, that might be probable”, speaking of bringing Tolvanen to the NHL this season.
As said, Tolvanen has 32 points already this season, putting him just one point shy of the best under-19 season in KHL history.
“I think simply he’s living up to (how) our scouts described him when we drafted him,” Poile said. “He’s a pure goal-scorer. He loves to shoot the puck. He can score from a lot of different places. He’s lethal on the power play, and it certainly has translated on a high level”.
Poile is looking to add more offensive power to the Predators lineup, and with the February 26th trade deadline in sight, bringing Tolvanen to Nashville would be easier than a trade.
Poile has openly stated that they are loving everything Tolvanen has done so far.
“If you believe that the KHL is the second-best professional hockey league, I would say Tolvanen is faring very well, especially at his age. That’s what we were looking for, and that’s what he’s delivering”, said Poile.
Where Does Eeli Fit?
One thing that is unclear, is where Tolvanen would fit in the Predators lineup if he was to join the team this year. After recently adding center Kyle Turris to the lineup, there is less space for the Finnish winger.
Right now, it is unknown as to whose spot Tolvanen would take if he made his Predators debut this season. Pontus Aberg seems to be the most likely, despite playing solid minutes in his 22 games this season.
Tolvanen’s offense would be a big boost for Nashville. He averages 3.7 shots per game, which would be the highest on the Predators. Similarly, the added shots would help Nashville, as they sit 25th in the league in shots per game.
Tolvanen would most likely begin on the 3rd of 4th line. However, if he could produce numbers similar to those in the KHL, he would see his ice time increase rapidly.
These are all hypotheticals, though. Although Poile is closely watching a 2018 Tolvanen debut, he would have to jump through some hoops to bring the Finnish winger stateside. If anyone can do it though, it’s Poile and his staff.
All is well in Smashville right now. The Predators are atop the Central Division, one point out of the Western Conference lead, the losing streak is over, prospects are showing out, and the Blackhawks are nowhere to be found.