An already scary-looking Nashville Predators team became a little more frightening on Thursday.
The Preds signed Finnish-born Eeli Tolvanen on a three-year, fully-loaded entry-level contract, a precedent-setting deal according to Sportsnet, who reported that Tolvanen is the first player ever selected outside the top two in the NHL draft to receive full “Schedule A” and “Schedule B” bonuses from the team who selected him.
The Predators took Tolvanen with the 30th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
“This is a great move, obviously, for today and our future,” general manager David Poile told reporters on Thursday, standing next to Tolvanen. “He comes in at a great spot right now with six games left in the regular season. It gives us an opportunity to give him a look and gives us that depth that we’re going to need in the playoffs.”
Tolvanen put together a historic season playing in his native Finland for Jokerit of the Kontinental Hockey League, becoming the highest scoring teenager in league history with 36 points in 49 games, surpassing Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s previous record of 32 points in four fewer games. His 19 goals and 17 assists are both KHL records for an 18-year-old.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
“He’s had basically just a normal year,” Poile joked, adding that Tolvanen should have gone a lot earlier in last year’s draft.
On Thursday, Tolvanen was fully aware of the situation he was coming into.
“The playoffs are coming,” he said. “I know they’re a really good team, so it’s easy to jump in, I think, because there’s a lot of good players, and they’re going to push me forward. That’s a good thing for me.”
Tolvanen was a popular figure at the 2018 Winter Olympics, where he had three goals and nine in five games, tied for second-most in the tournament and the second-best total by an under-19 player in Olympic history.
Prior to joining the KHL, Tolvanen played two seasons with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers, recording 47 goals and 92 points in 101 games. He was supposed to head to Boston College in the NCAA but was rejected by the school’s admissions office the day before last year’s draft after he did not meet the school’s standards.
The move for the Predators adds another piece to a puzzle that already looked to be complete.
Nashville entered Thursday’s action as the top team in the Central Division, the Western Conference and the whole of the NHL with 109 points and are arguably the clear favorite to avenge their Stanley Cup loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last year.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday that Tolvanaen could make his NHL debut on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. That matchup probably bodes well for his chances to snipe his first NHL goal, as well.
One thing is for certain: Nashville has one downright scary looking roster.