Coming into the season, the Nashville Predators had hopes of Eeli Tolvanen impacting the roster. That day may not come this season.
We have witnessed tons of young talent take the NHL by storm over the last few seasons. Last year, six 19-year-old players finished the season with 40 or more points. Patrik Laine has 44 goals and 70 points, leading the charge for the young guns. Clayton Keller finished with 65 points. The Nashville Predators were hoping to join the trend.
Eeli Tolvanen showed the world what he is capable of last year. The Predators’ 2017 first-round selection set the KHL record for points for players under the age of 20 last season, gaining 19 goals and 17 assists. Then, he displayed his skills for the world in the Olympics. With 3 goals and 6 assists, Tolvanen helped push Finland in the tournament and finished second in scoring overall.
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Everywhere Tolvanen has played, awards and accolades followed. He was part of the KHL All-star game and was rookie of the month in September and November. Also, he was part of the Olympic All-star Team. The expectations are high for the young Tolvanen.
However, things are not going as well as we hoped this season. Tolvanen is fourth on the Milwaukee Admirals with 11 points, tied with Rocco Grimaldi. Four of those points are goals, including an empty-netter. Certainly not what we were expecting.
Part of the concern is the actual size of the rink. The KHL and Olympics use international-sized rinks, which are four meters wider than those used in the NHL. Furthermore, the neutral zone is wider as bluelines are closer to the goals. Less space for Tolvanen to use his speed and fire off a shot.
What else is concerning is Tolvanen’s defense. While he has 11 points on the season, he has a -9 rating in just 21 games. That is the second worst plus/minus rating on the Admirals.
The AHL/NHL game is providing a learning experience for Tolvanen that has been overwhelming so far. Can he figure it out? Maybe. I would say it is likely. However, don’t sit back and wait for him to save the Nashville Predators’ season (not that it needs saving, even if they are struggling right now). Tolvanen is 19-years-old and learning. Once he figures it out, he will get a call. But evidence shows he is not ready yet.
He may not be all year.