After Eeli Tolvanen lit up the KHL as a teenager last season, some expected him to step right into the NHL and not look back. His chance came at the end of the season with the Nashville Predators, but after some struggles in three outings was kept off the playoff roster entirely. Tolvanen would get another chance at training camp this summer, but ended up sent to the Milwaukee Admirals to work on his game at the minor league level. That assignment came with a catch though, as Tolvanen’s entry-level contract has a clause in it which would allow him to return to the KHL after ten AHL games if he so chose.
Tolvanen has now played eight games in the minor leagues and will reach the ten mark this weekend, but isn’t expected to be going anywhere. Pierre LeBrun said as much on the most recent edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, and as Paul Skrbina writes for the Tennessean, Tolvanen this week even told a Finnish radio station outright that he’d be staying in North America.
Obviously things could change over the next few days, but Tolvanen staying in North America is good news for the Predators as it means they’ll have the chance to monitor his development more closely. It also means that they will be able to recall him at a moment’s notice if they feel he’s grown enough to compete at the NHL level, which is likely why he wants to stay close as well. The 19-year old is armed with a wicked shot and excellent offensive instincts, but has to learn how to create more chances for himself instead of just waiting for an opportunity to let a shot fly. He does have five assists (and one goal) in eight minor league games, and continues to take steps towards his eventual NHL ceiling. For now, he’ll stay in the AHL and learn to dominate on North American ice just like he did last season for Jokerit.