Still hope for the rookie
When it comes to impacting the Nashville Predators this season, Eeli Tolvanen still tops my list. What we are seeing from Zac Rinaldo has impressed, to say the least. He leads the team in CorsiFor/60 and is third in CF% when adjusted for quality of competition. With all the fear and concern of him taking penalties, Rinaldo only has one call against him this season.
Ryan Hartman is going to leave a mark on this roster as well. His constant effort on defense creates chaos for opponents. Can he be the goal-scorer he was with the Blackhawks his first season? I do not know. But, he will play an important role.
For me, however, I am still in the camp of Eeli Tolvanen. While he has yet to make an impressive splash with the Predators, the hope and potential is still there. At 18-years-old, Tolvanen played 57 games between the NHL, KHL, and Olympics. He excelled everywhere but in the NHL so far. The size and speed of the game are unlike anything he witnessed before. But, he is young, hungry, and talented. Once he scores a few goals in Milwaukee, he will regain any lost confidence.
If you look at the current Predators lineup, you can see a constant philosophy. Coach Peter Laviolette pairs a goal scorer with a great center and a gritty, energetic forward. The top two lines show this idea for sure. Could you imagine a line of Nick Bonino, Hartman, and Tolvanen? It is not the JoFA line, but the potential for scoring significantly increases. The only concern is Tolvanen’s defense. Still, another line who can score is an impact most teams do not possess.
Honestly, any of these players could impact the Predators team. But, it only takes one to make a huge difference.