Nashville Predators: It’s Not Time to Worry About Eeli Tolvanen Yet

Nashville Predators right wing Eeli Tolvanen (28) warms up before a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators right wing Eeli Tolvanen (28) warms up before a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

We saw a lot of individual milestones and career years for the Nashville Predators this past season, but Eeli Tolvanen unfortunately wasn’t one of them.

Tolvanen has been under the spotlight of being a future elite goal scorer and power play specialist since he was drafted 30th overall in 2017. Fresh off the trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Predators made an enticing draft pick in Tolvanen.

Since then, we’ve been patiently waiting for Tolvanen do develop his all-around game, and it’s fair to say he’s done that. He became much more of a defensive-minded forward for the Predators this past season.

A season of positives and negatives for Tolvanen

Tolvanen was sixth on the Predators in hits with 176,  and tenth on the team in blocks with 48 while playing in 75 games. He showed a lot of progress in his defensive game, which is very encouraging to see from the 23-year-old.

Now let’s get to the reason why some people are losing their patience in regards to Tolvanen, and it’s the obvious lack of goal production.  Just 11 goals in 2021-22 after scoring that same amount of goals the previous season in 35 fewers games. Not a trend you want to see from a young player that’s supposed to be an offensive threat, particularly on the power play.

Tolvanen’s shooting percentage was abysmal all seaosn, but rebounded a tad towards the end, but still finished at a putrid 7.3 percent. Down from 16.9 percent the previous season.

As bad as that shooting percentage looks, it also actually gives me some optimism that this past season was a bit of a fluke and his goal scoring will see a considerable uptick next season. He was the proverbial “snake bitten” hockey player for a large portion of the year.

Next season is a big one for Tolvanen in terms of deciding what his future looks like with the Nashville Predators. It’s paramount that he has the right linemates and a quality center that can maximize his offensive abilities. I can’t honestly say that’s always the case on this Predators team when you look at some of these line combinations that are trotted out.

There are some 2022 free agents who I think shouldn’t return to the lineup next season, and the front office really needs to find some more complementary offensive playmakers for this roster who can make everyone else better as well, including the young Tolvanen.

Tolvanen still has two more years left on his current contract worth a rather cheap $1.45M AAV. If he flourishes next season and can become a 20-plus goal scorer like I fully believe he’s destined to become, then the Predators will suddenly have some depth scoring that they have been sorely lacking since it feels like the dawn of time.

Next. Juuse Saros is a Vezina Finalist for the First Time. dark

I’m intrigued to see how much more changes this roster goes through in the offseason. Cody Glass should be on the team in the season-opener of 2022-23, and we’ll have to see who else might be added in free agency. That all can have a positive impact on Tolvanen’s offensive game.

The worst case scenario is Tolvanen just isn’t a fit for this system that Head Coach John Hynes implements and the Predators have to eventually trade him. I would hate to see that, and it looks like at least for another season Hynes will remain head coach.

If Tolvanen’s bad scoring fortune carries over into next season and becomes a long-term issue, then the Nashville Predators will have some decisions to make at next year’s trade deadline. Obviously that’s going way into the future, but it’s something to keep in the back of your mind.

As for now, Tolvanen should be fine and continues to develop into a solid all-around player. We need to start seeing more goals from him next season, and I expect we will see a career year from him scoring in 2022-23.