Nashville Predators 2022-23 Season Preview: Eeli Tolvanen

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 /

Eeli Tolvanen has been expected to be one of the more promising young forwards on the Nashville Predators for a long time now, and his start to the 2020-21 season all but confirmed it.

However, then Tolvanen got injured, and then went cold upon his return to action. Now he enters his third full season in the NHL. In 122 career games, he’s been able to muster up just 23 goals.

Whether or not you like it, Tolvanen was a disappointing player for the Nashville Predators last year. Even if his defensive and physical game took steps forward, he was snakebitten in the category that is supposed to be his main strength — goal scoring.

Now is not the time to pull the plug on Tolvanen in a Predators uniform, but time is running out for him to prove that he is the player we once thought he would be. It is safe to say that the upcoming season is a put up or shut up year for him.

Nashville Predators must see serious improvements from Tolvanen

One question you might be asking yourself is for someone who took steps to improve his all around game last year, why could Tolvanen not capitalize on the thing he is supposed to be best at?

From two aspects of Tolvanen’s game, it is not hard to see why he was so ineffective in the key category of scoring.

First and foremost, his shooting percentage was abhorrent at just a shade over seven percent. Lowest on the team among the regular forwards.

You may look at that and think that eventually that stat will at least show some regression to the mean, but nevertheless, Tolvanen will need to work tremendously on his accuracy in order to take the next step forward.

We’re hoping to see Tolvanen’s luck turn around and that he finds himself in more high-danger scoring chances like this breakaway goal he had against the Penguins in March, via


Secondly, for as good as his start to 2020-21 was, he was not doing much at even strength. Six of his 11 goals came on the power play, and his effectiveness as a distributor of the puck was honestly nonexistent.

One thing that may have impacted Tolvanen’s performance, and something that most fans including myself will always point out is that Head Coach John Hynes could not find a consistent lineup spot to benefit him.

Hynes is definitely not blameless in that regard, but even I can look back and realize Tolvanen was doing a lot of it to himself.

Look at Philip Tomasino, who was a better player than Tolvanen despite having a full year less of experience and also being shuffled from line to line for most of last year.

Tolvanen has to get it figured out, and it is not hard to admit at this point.

If there is something to be optimistic about with Tolvanen, it is that he was at his best when he played with Tomasino and Cody Glass, who actually looked pretty good as a line when they got their opportunities. If that line reunites, or Hynes assembles one that is similar, then Tolvanen very well might have a better year, but you have to place a lot of emphasis on “might.”

Predictions and overall consensus on Tolvanen

The one part of Tolvanen’s game that honestly probably will even out is his shooting percentage.

As mentioned, it is hard to imagine him being that unlucky as time goes on, and that is something so glaring that you have to expect him to work on. It will help if he has more regular linemates, especially if Glass has the breakout year some expect him to have.

However, the more concerning thing about Tolvanen is his repeated inability to be an offensive contributor at even strength. Just looking at his career trajectory so far, that is likely going to take a lot of time to work on, and it could be years before he reaches his full potential.

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Last offseason we could make the excuse that he was extremely raw, and we cannot just ignore the strides he took in other aspects of the game. But he is experienced enough to the point where he just has to get it together.

The sad truth is, if Tolvanen’s offensive game does not blossom, and he is nothing more than a fourth-line grinder, then he might become expendable. The Predators have enough “fourth line grinders”.

If Tolvanen can at least get more time on a consistent line, which looks like should be more feasible with the Predators’ improved roster, his stats should be something like 22 goals and 15 assists if he plays close to the full amount of regular season games.

That’s a modest prediction, but it will be at least enough for the team to keep him around for another year or two.