Watch out NHL teams, Eeli’s coming. Eeli Tolvanen, that is.
At least, that appears to be the plan for the Nashville Predators, as assistant GM Paul Fenton told Craig Custance of The Athletic (sub required) that they expect to bring in Tolvanen once his KHL “out clause” kicks in following his season with Jokerit.
“We’ll have a contract in place to be able to execute and have him come over here,” Fenton said. “That’s the plan. Funnier things have happened. I don’t want to say 100 percent. I never do that in our business. Yes, our plan is to have him.”
Now, depending upon whom you ask, the “funnier things” might involve a trade … although the odds seem pretty low on that, as Custance notes:
OK, so let’s assume that Tolvanen isn’t the one who’s traded. There’s the possibility, mind you, that Tolvanen’s emergence and Mike Fisher’s hopeful return might force a bit of a logjam, or at least a theoretical one. Maybe GM David Poile would use that anticipated influx of even more depth to make an upgrade?
(Dobber Hockey discusses how Jokerit’s work in the KHL playoffs also complicates when Tolvanen might be able to arrive in North America. Short version: Predators fans will probably root against Jokerit for at least a few weeks.)
It’s dizzying stuff to jump into all of the possibilities, especially if you’re like TSN’s Travis Yost, who ponders potential reverberations in a possible Seattle expansion draft:
/Needs a second to sit down and allow brain to heal.
OK, so all of that is important, but let’s take a moment to bask in the gloriousness of what might be another talented player added to a fun Predators roster already brimming with depth and skill. (Custance describes the Predators as “salivating” over clips from Tolvanen at the 2018 Winter Olympics.)
The beautiful thing about the Finnish 18-year-old, who was almost instantly heralded as a steal as the 30th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, is that he’s checking just about all the boxes.
While his Finnish team fell to Canada and were eliminated in the quarterfinal today, he was absolutely sensational. Quick reference: when you’re getting mentioned in the same breath as vintage Eric Lindros, you’re probably doing something very, very right.
Of course, five games is a small sample size, and the talent on hand during the 2018 Winter Olympics was a mixed bag.
The Predators must be heartened, then, to see Tolvanen produce in the KHL. He currently has 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points in 47 games. That ranks Tolvanen second on his team in scoring, just one point behind former Canucks and Rangers forward Nicklas Jensen, who’s collected his 35 points in 52 games.
He made quite the splash right off the bat, becoming the youngest player to net a hat trick in the KHL:
Ultimately, the Predators enjoy an embarrassment of riches, with the luxury of bickering over whether they should keep the promising prospect or move him in a Rick Nash trade. The stakes are high when you’re aiming for a Stanley Cup, yet it’s also remarkable just how loaded the Predators are from their roster to their farm system.
While Poile and the Predators giggle about the possibilities, the rest of the NHL lets out more of a nervous laugh. Or at least they probably should.