NASHVILLE — Eeli Tolvanen‘s goal-scoring ability has been evident since the Nashville Predators selected the forward prospect in the first round (No. 30) of the 2017 NHL Draft.
The challenge for Finland native has been figuring out how to create room for himself on the North American rink to put those offensive skills on display.
Two games into the 2019 NHL Prospects Showcase at Ford Ice Center in Nashville, Tolvanen is showing he may have figured it out. He has two goals and one assist for the Predators and has put himself in position to challenge for a roster spot in training camp.
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Tolvanen had 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 58 games with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League last season and wants to prove to the Predators that he’s improved in the offseason.
“Just that I still have that scoring ability,” Tolvanen said. “I kind of struggled a little bit last year but still having it and to show that I’m ready. I think I’ve been working hard for it last year in Milwaukee and then this summer.”
The Predators asked Tolvanen (5-foot-10, 181 pounds) to lose weight and become quicker during the offseason, and Tolvanen has done that. They’re hoping that added speed can help him create more room to utilize his shot.
“There’s no question he looks lighter and quicker, and those are the things we really asked him to kind of take the time this summer and train like a pro,” Predators assistant general manager and director of scouting Jeff Kealty said. “It’s just part of his evolving as a player and really buying into how important your offseason training is. I think he lost 16 or 17 pounds or something like that. I think that just shows how committed he is to taking that next step in his career.”
Video: CHI@NSH: Tolvanen nets Smith’s feed for first goal
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Tolvanen has been learning how to get his shot off quickly before defenders are able to crowd him. It took him some time to work on releasing the puck quickly through traffic.
“I know one of the things our coaches and development people have talked about with him is not only getting [his shot] away but also, even in practice, just every time you’re shooting the puck, work on scoring goals,” Kealty said. “He’s naturally gifted that way where he can score from a lot of different areas, but just whatever your craft is at this level, you can always hone in on it that much more.”
Tolvanen will be challenged to make Nashville’s opening night roster because of the depth at forward, but he believes his work this offseason made him ready for the challenge.
“I’m feeling really good out there,” Tolvanen said. “I feel really confident. Hopefully I can show that during training camp.”