With the way this 18-year-old is tearing up the Kontinental Hockey League this season, Nashville Predators fans should familiarize themselves with the name Eeli Tolvanen.
Tolvanen, the Preds first-round pick in the NHL Draft earlier this year, is on the verge of securing the highest-scoring season the KHL has ever seen from an 18-year-old. And the season is only two-thirds over.
The Nummela, Finland, native notched a hat trick for Finnish-based Jokerit in his KHL debut in August, his first-career professional game, and has stayed hot ever since. Tolvanen is up to 31 points (17g-14a) in 37 games. The left wing’s next point will tie him for the most in KHL history for an 18-year-old.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, now an all-star forward with the Washington Capitals, tallied 32 points (17g-15a) in 44 games during his 2010-11 KHL season at 18.
“Tolvanen is one of the top scorers in the KHL and for an 18-year-old, that’s impressive,” Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton said. “The way he approaches the game with the scorer’s mentality is exactly what we’re looking for.”
The Preds selected Tolvanen with the 30th overall pick in June’s Draft after his two successful seasons playing for the United States Hockey League’s Sioux City Musketeers. He posted 54 points (30g-24a) in 52 games in the USHL in 2016-17. He also had six points (2g-4a) in six tournament games while representing Finland at the World Junior Championship.
Tolvanen has flourished in the KHL – considered to be one of the top leagues in the world outside of the NHL. His 17 goals are the fourth most in the league, and he’s twice posted hat tricks, the first one making him the youngest to do so in league history (18 years, 123 days).
Tolvanen has already twice been named KHL Rookie of the Month in September and October. He’s drawn four Rookie of the Week honors and one Forward of the Week award as well. Earlier this month, the skater was named a starter for the KHL All-Star Game in early 2018.
“His future is bright with us, no question, whether it’s this year, next year or the following year,” Fenton said. “Our scouts did a tremendous job being able to find him at 30 last year.”