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Wednesday morning, Juha Hiitelä of the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat reported that 2017 NHL Draft pick Eeli Tolvanen has agreed to terms with the Nashville Predators and, once his Kontinental Hockey League season is over (Jokerit trails in their best-of seven series 3-1 with Game 5 coming Thursday), he’ll sign his entry-level contract and board a plane to Music City.
Tolvanen’s ELC is done deal. Immigration issues solved. Jokerit season likely over tomorrow. Then to Nashville. https://t.co/ElLin2v5Lo
— Juha Hiitelä (@jhiitela) March 21, 2018
Tolvanen was the most talented 18-year old the KHL had ever seen. He scored a hat trick in his first ever pro game — then another a week later — and went onto lead his Jokerit club to a third place finish in the Western Conference. He finished tied for 33rd in scoring with 36 points in 49 games and his 19 goals tied for 11th.
But his flare for the dramatic wasn’t contained to the KHL regular season. He represented his native Finland in the World Junior Championships and ended the tournament with seven points in six games. Then he represented Finland again, this time in Pyeongchang where he was second in scoring — in the entire Olympic field — with nine points in five games.
And then, of course, he single-handedly brought Jokerit to the second round of the KHL playoffs when he scored this overtime beauty.
— Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) March 9, 2018
Can he translate that success to the NHL? The common defense against European players is the smaller ice surface of the North American game. Aside from some re-acclamation, he shouldn’t have much of a problem as he played in for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL for two seasons before he was drafted by Nashville 30th overall this past summer. The next immediate push-back people love to give when tempering expectations for young players is their age and lack of experience. Once again, Tolvanen’s DNA doesn’t subscribe to that having played a full season against men, both in the second best league in the world and in the Olympics.
Only time will tell if he can contribute at the NHL level similar to what he was able to contribute to Jokerit in the KHL but, if he can, the Predators will add yet another weapon to their Stanley Cup aresneal.
AUDIO: Eeli Tolvanen on our 2017 NHL Draft Day coverage live from the draft floor in Chicago, IL
PHOTO CREDIT: Mikko Taipale (used with permission)