Eeli Tolvanen was actually one of the first 2017 eligible prospects that I had the chance to watch, having paid attention to the World U-17 Hockey Challenge back in 2015, where he scored a jaw-dropping 9 goals in 5 games for Finland, which is good for 4th best in the entire history of the tournament, and led the tournament in points. I normally can’t find streams in Canada to watch USHL games, but he was somebody that drew my interest enough for me to keep tabs on him for the last 18 months since that viewing. Tolvanen followed up this tournament with a stellar performance at the U18s, where he scored at a pace of a goal per game, and helped lead the Finns to a gold medal, which is quite spectacular for a player in their draft -1 year, and was only just turning 17 that month. This season, Tolvanen has had a very strong showing in his first year of draft eligibility, and, in my opinion, he could find himself as one of the first wingers selected in the first round. Regardless of whether the Wings draft him or not, he is someone that you should be keeping a close eye on next season, where he has committed to play for Boston College. I have a very strong feeling that he is going to terrorize the NCAA next year. In the present article, we are going to evaluate Tolvanen from both a qualitative, and data-driven standpoint, and discuss what he brings to the table for any team looking to draft him.
Name: Eeli Tolvanen
Date of birth: April 22nd, 1999
Birthplace: Vihti, Finland
Weight: 179 pounds
NHL comparable: Phil Kessel
ISS Hockey: 13
McKeen’s Hockey: 9
Future Considerations: 8
NHL CSS: 8 (North American skaters)
Tolvanen is a strong skater, with a great first step and excellent acceleration, which gives him a lot of time and space to slip through defenders, and get himself open shots on goal. He may be rather smallish, but he’s surprisingly tough to knock off the puck, as he has great balance, which makes him surprisingly resilient when it comes to working in the corners and along the boards during puck battles.
Although Tolvanen is a winger, his two-way play is quite developed, especially for a winger that’s his age. He has good positioning, and contributes to applying back pressure in the defensive zone. He is hardly a passenger in the defensive zone, and he’s effective at helping the play transition to offense by forcing turnovers in his own zone. However, as with Martin Nečas, Tolvanen will need to improve his strength when trying to match up physically with bigger forecheckers in the defensive zone, as he can get overpowered. Regardless, for a prospect his age, he plays a refreshingly refined game without the puck in the defensive zone, and can never be accused of being one-dimensional.
Don’t let Tolvanen’s numbers fool you. Despite being barely a point per game player in his draft year (which is usually not necessarily indicative that a player is a top 10 pick), Tolvanen is by far one of the most lethal goalscorers in the entire draft class. Tolvanen’s best asset by far is his shot. His shot is probably rivaled only by Owen Tippett, and (maybe) Fabian Zetterlund from what I’ve seen so far. It is a Brett Hull-esque type of release that explodes off of his stick with all the fury of a banshee screaming from a fiery abyss. It is disgusting to watch, and I feel sorry for not only the player who would dare try to block it, the goalie, but also the twine in the net and the puck itself for having to take such abuse. He doesn’t need that big of a wind-up for it either, which makes him incredibly dangerous when he’s taking a one-timer from the right faceoff circle, as he doesn’t need much time or space to do damage. Good luck trying to track the puck without a slow-motion replay. His wrist shot is equally as impressive. He is able to get his heavy wrist shot off quickly, and it’s dangerously accurate from just about anywhere in the offensive zone.
To give some perspective of how effective he is at scoring goals, the following is a scatterplot of data which I compiled from prospect-stats.com for the 52 highest ranked North American forwards on NHL CSS’s final rankings list:
Only Owen Tippett and Jonah Gadjovich scored at a higher rate at 5v5 than Tolvanen, and personally, I think Tolvanen will end up scoring more goals than Gadjovich in his career. When you consider all CHL and USHL prospects, he remains 3rd amongst all prospects in 5v5 G/60 with 30+ GP. To put this in perspective, he scores goals at almost a standard deviation higher rate than Nico Hischier at 5v5 amongst this sample of 52 skaters.
As you might be able to discern from this scatterplot, playmaking isn’t necessarily his forte. That being said, he’s a surprisingly good passer, and has better vision and passing skills than what you’d expect from a player who is a pure sniper like him. Overall, he has high level hockey sense, and he is able to create passing lanes through a mixture of his skating and puckhandling abilities. Just don’t expect him to ever rack up primary assists like Evan Barratt, Mason Shaw, Cody Glass, or Robert Thomas have the potential to.
What I particularly like about Tolvanen is that he’s a very fiery, fiercely competitive player. Every time I’ve gotten the chance to watch him, I’ve noticed that he always seems to play with a chip on his shoulder, as if he has something to prove. This attitude that I see from him is something that I think will help him throughout his career, as he strikes me as somebody who would be a big game performer, and would elevate their game when the stakes are high.
Video Credit: NHL Prospects - YouTube
Video Credit: bigwhite06 - YouTube
Video Credit: Hockey Prospects Center - YouTube
Overall, Tolvanen is a player who I could see a lot of teams drooling over if they are looking to pick up someone on wing. If the Wings weren’t so in need of a top pair defenseman or more center prospects, Tolvanen would be someone that I’d actually entertain more seriously as a consideration. After all, the Wings have had a lot of trouble scoring goals, and have suffered from an anemic powerplay for the last two seasons. Eeli Tolvanen would inject a lot of firepower into the lineup in the future, and I could see him as someone developing into a premier goalscorer in the NHL. If he hits his ceiling, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash if he eventually puts up 30+ goals in a season. I have heard some people compare him stylistically to Phil Kessel, and I definitely see it, although I think his 200 ft game is a lot more developed than Kessel’s was at the same age. That kind of an option to finish plays is something that wouldn’t take me a lot of convincing to become very excited about.
Anyways, that’s it for this profile. Let me know what you think of him in the comments below. For my next profile, I will be going over a defensive prospect that has been flying under a lot of peoples’ radars, but may end up being one of the home run picks of the mid-late first round, the Soo Greyhounds’ Conor Timmins. Until then, happy scouting!