Adding to an impressive rookie season in the KHL, Nashville Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen is making his case for the NHL at the Winter Olympics.
The Nashville Predators’ first-round draft pick in 2017, Eeli Tolvanen, has been nothing short of outstanding. Since then, the 18-year-old Tolvanen has been lighting up the KHL with Jokerit. The rookie has 17 goals and 17 assists through 47 games, and adds a +12 rating too. He’s broken many rookie scoring records, and is now starring for Team Finland at the Winter Olympics.
Now you must consider the fact that there are no NHL players in this year’s Winter Olympics, so obviously his success will be met with criticism. However, the skills he’s displaying in Pyeongchang are clearly NHL-caliber.
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Through 2 Games
Boy has Eeli made a strong first impression! His first two games scream “Look out world, here I come!”
In his first Olympic game versus Germany, Tolvanen made sure people were talking about him. The 18-year-old scored once and added three assists, for an outstanding 4 point game.
Game #2 vs Norway was no different. He blasted a shot by the goalie at 16:36 in the 1st period, then added another beautiful goal, on a breakaway in the 2nd period. He snuck down the left side, pulled the puck across his body to his backhand, then ever-so-slightly, tapped the puck between the goalie’s legs.
A move like that shows a skaters skill, vision, and awareness. It was beautiful.
Through two games, Tolvanen has 3 goals and 3 assists. Through 2 games, he’s leading the tournament in scoring.
When asked about his performance thus far, Eeli gave a brilliantly simple answer, “I like scoring every game, so that’s a big thing for me”. He then added, “I just go out there and try to have fun and play my game”.
Simple enough…maybe hockey isn’t that hard after all. Just try to score every game and maybe one day you’ll be an teenage Olympic sensation too.
When asked about Eeli, Finland head coach Lauri Marjamaki commented, “Eeli is a great player with an unbelievable shot”.
He then said that, “He brings us so much, his open-minded game and fearless (approach). And the whole atmosphere is excited because Eeli is on our team”.
Finnish captain Lasse Kukkonen said that, “It’s a privilege to be on the same team with him and I get a chance to enjoy watching him play”.
Even Predators GM David Poile is liking what he sees out of Tolvanen.
"“As an 18-year-old, you draft a player, he’s 30th in the draft, he goes back to play in Finland, and I think everybody would agree the KHL is the second-best league in hockey after the NHL. He’s the youngest player in the league and is breaking rookie scoring records. So that’s pretty, pretty good for his first year. Now he’s playing in the Olympics, on their first line and power play. So for 18 years old, that’s probably exceeding expectations. Could we have something there? Could it be as soon as this year? I’d like to leave open all possibilities for that to happen.”"
When Can We Expect Him in Nashville?
If Tolvanen did come state-side this season, it would be after the NHL playoffs had already started. His season in the KHL won’t end until mid-April, making him unavailable until after that season concludes.
However, if he could translate his KHL and Olympic game to the NHL, it would be worth the wait.
PLEASE David Poile, do not do anything stupid.
Tolvanen has gone above and beyond what was expected of him this early, and for that reason, he should be a country mile away from the trading block.
This kid is the best pure-scoring prospect that the Predators have had in a while. Poile compared his scoring ability to that of Filip Forsberg, and his skating to that of Viktor Arvidsson. That’s about as good as it can get, especially for a kid who is 18 years old.
For now, let’s stay focused on Eeli. Next up for Team Finland is Team Sweden at 7:10 AM Sunday morning.
Go Preds Go, Go Team Finland.