There are several exciting, young prospects for the Nashville Predators. However, no one eclipses the importance of Eeli Tolvanen to develop.
The Nashville Predators need their young talent to keep developing to stay in contention with the top teams in the Western Conference. Eeli Tolvanen fits squarely into that equation heading into 2018-19. Fans want him to explode immediately, but we have to be realistic.
We saw just a brief glimpse of Tolvanen towards the end of last season. The results were underwhelming in the three games he appeared in, failing to register a point. No one should be overreacting to Tolvanen’s first stint in the NHL. The real test will come this upcoming season. Luckily, the Predators are stacked enough at the top to be patient with Tolvanen’s development.
Tolvanen has more hype than any Predators draft pick I can remember in recent time. Despite being taken 30th overall, the pick was widely considered the steal of the draft in 2017. The entire year there were rumblings of when Tolvanen would be called up, if at all. After his successful season in the KHL came to a close, he got his chance. Now he will be a full-time player, and put his focus completely on the Predators. Here’s what we should expect from him in his first full year.
Shots, shots, and more shots
There’s going to remain a learning curve for Tolvanen out of the gate. A full offseason of preparation will certainly benefit his progress. With that said, a lot of patience is going to be required. He’s not going to come in immediately and tally several goals per week. What we can expect is more shot attempts and shots on goal.
Tolvanen registered three shots on goal in his final appearance of the season. His first two NHL games, he failed to register a shot on goal. That’s understandable, but we want to see progress in that area in his rookie year. As he gets more comfortable, his shot numbers should blossom. It doesn’t mean he’ll pile up the goals, but he’ll get plenty of opportunities.
Confidence is critical for the 19-year-old who has heavy expectations at such a young age. Rising confidence will slow the game down for him, and put him in better areas to get shots on goal. As gifted as he is shooting the puck, piling on the shots will maximize his impact on the team. It looks like he’ll get more offseason development through the rookie camp, per Brooks Bratten:
A slow start, but a strong finish
Patience is going to be key for Tolvanen’s rookie season. He may have lit up the KHL, but now he’s playing in the best league in the world. The gap between the KHL, a respected league, and the NHL is enormous. We can’t expect him to immediately translate his incredible KHL numbers into the NHL. It will take a considerable amount of time before we start seeing him show up all over the box score.
However, this should be a classic case of getting better as the year progresses. Tolvanen is too talented to not eventually find his groove. Imagine the luxury the Predators will have if Tolvanen begins going on a scoring barrage right as the playoffs are approaching. That’s what we have to look forward to.
I have Tolvanen finishing in the neighborhood of 30-35 points in his rookie year. I may end up being completely wrong and he figures it out way sooner than I can imagine. If he does, then the Predators will be one of the higher scoring teams in the league. I’m optimistic he’ll finish the year with respectable rookie numbers, but he doesn’t come near Filip Forsberg‘s rookie numbers of 63 points and 26 goals in 2014-15.
Being mentally tougher will dictate how Tolvanen’s rookie season turns out. All reports are saying he’s having a productive offseason that should make us optimistic. We’ll definitely see glimpses of his immense skills early on, and hopefully some highlight reel goals. Let’s pump the brakes on how quickly he explodes out of the gate and remember he’s still a teenager.