After a long flight from Helsinki yesterday, Eeli Tolvanen, the Nashville Predators’ 30th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, finally made it to Nashville and participated in the team’s morning skate on Thursday. While he will not play tonight against the San Jose Sharks, according to Peter Laviolette, his new coach is excited to see what he brings to the team.
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“This is the NHL, it’s the greatest league in the world with the greatest players in the world,” Laviolette said. “But, everything that we’ve seen from him, this year especially, the way he’s played in the KHL, the numbers that he’s produced in the KHL, the Olympics that he played, I watched a lot of the Olympic games, and just found him to be a really smart two-way player inside of that environment, which is still a good environment.”
“To the way he finished the playoffs, everything gets ramped up in the playoffs and I’m sure it gets ramped up in the KHL playoffs as well. He was terrific, just a real smart player, obviously great offensive instincts and we’re certainly hoping that translates over here.”
Tolvanen leading stretches. pic.twitter.com/feMqU1k8Hm
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For someone who is still approximately a month away from turning 19, Tolvanen has an incredibly impressive resume. General manager David Poile listed Tolvanen’s accomplishments this season prior to introducing him and it took him a solid minute to read them all.
He had 36 points in 49 games with Jokerit of the KHL, the most ever by a teenager in the league. His 19 goals on the season were the most ever by an 18-year-old. Tolvanen also led the Finnish World Juniors team in points before scoring the second-most points by an 18-year-old in Olympic history with the Finnish National Team.
After finishing his season with Jokerit last week, Tolvanen navigated a bureaucratic headache to get his immigration cleared and get himself over to the United States. After a long flight and not much sleep, Tolvanen still managed to participate in morning skate.
“I’ve been on a lot of new teams this year, so it’s easy to jump here,” Tolvanen said. “It’s not the first time I’m with a new team. The Olympics was good experience. There were a lot of older NHL players, so I think that will help me a lot too.”
Tolvanen has signed his three-year entry-level contract, but no other contract details have been released. While he will not play tonight, Poile said the coaches have the all-clear to put him on the ice when they see fit.
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“He’s ready to play whenever the coaches choose to play him,” Poile said. “Last year at the 30th pick in the draft, we were very surprised that he was there, I know that’s the cliché of all clichés, but we thought that Eeli should have gone a lot earlier in the draft. We were looking for an offensive player, one who could score some goals, and it certainly appears on the surface that we found that out.”
According to Tolvanen, when his KHL season started, he gave no thought to finishing the season with the Predators. However, after a long season and an impressive build-up of highlight-reel plays and eye-popping numbers, he’s here and ready to rock.
The past year also allowed him to grow up a little bit as an 18-year-old.
“I think that was a good opportunity for me to play in the KHL,” Tolvanen said. “It’s the second-best league in the world so I think that helped me a lot as a player and as a person. I lived by myself and you travel a lot in Russia. You don’t know what’s going on or what’s going to happen tomorrow. It was a big help for me.”
As far as what he can contribute with a few games remaining in the regular season and what should be a long playoff run coming up, Tolvanen wants to keep it simple.
“Just to get a chance and I think just to play my game,” he said. “I don’t think I need to bring anything else. Just what I got.”
The Predators take on the San Jose Sharks tonight at 7 PM at Bridgestone Arena.