Evaluating Eeli Tolvanen’s Play in the AHL

Nashville Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen finished his second AHL season with the Milwaukee Admirals on a high note. He was really starting to heat up offensively in the final two months of the season. After a somewhat slow start, it was encouraging to see him start making more scoring plays.

His point production was very modest at the start of the season as he only recorded two goals and two assists in his first 20 games. However, Tolvanen was getting scoring chances; he just couldn’t finish at the same rate as later on in the season.

Tolvanen put up 36 points in 63 games for the Admirals, who were atop of the AHL’s Western Conference before the season was cancelled. His 21 goals were second most on the team and his 191 shots were 57 more than the next closest teammate.

Tolvanen’s shooting ability has already been well documented. He is a high-volume shooter who can rifle the puck with excellent power and precision. He has an excellent one-timer from the top of the circle. His wrist shot and snap shot are world class as well. Especially the accuracy of his wrist shot is very good, even from a distance, as he consistently forces goalies to make saves. The 21-year-old winger has the potential to be a very good goal-scorer in the NHL, I don’t think there is any doubt about that.

However, at the same time, I think his playmaking skills and hockey sense are two attributes that can get overlooked sometimes. He is highly intelligent with the puck, he seldom gives careless passes and overall his passing is crisp and precise. He makes calculated decisions and does not force the game.

Tolvanen possesses strong hand-eye coordination which is exhibited in the clip above. He controls the puck well out of air and almost gains a step on the defenseman in order to cut to the net. Moreover, he is adept at deflecting pucks around the net.

Defensively, I think he has come a long way from where he was before he joined the Admirals. He reads the game well without the puck and he competes responsibly in all three zones. In my viewings this past season, he tracked back hard and was often the first forward back in the defensive zone. On the penalty kill, he is alert and shows good awareness of his surroundings. He really looks committed to improve his play away from the puck and his efforts have already started to pay dividends.

This is a strong penalty kill sequence from Tolvanen. He uses his stick well to disrupt the puck carrier, eventually wins the puck battle and clears the zone as he does not give up on the play.

Here is a solid sequence from Tolvanen. He gets to the puck first on the dump-in and moves it to his teammate. He then joins the attack, receives the puck after entering the offensive zone and dishes a great backhand pass back to Rem Pitlick.

Tolvanen could be more agile, especially when considering his 5’10” frame. I would also like to see him improve his lateral mobility. However, he does skate well in a straight line. His acceleration and top speed are very good, albeit not elite. He’s sturdy on his skates and has strong balance. I do not think his skating will deter him from eventually becoming an impact NHL player.

All things considered, Tolvanen continued to improve his play on both sides of the puck. I was impressed with his commitment to the defensive game. He may not have scored in the AHL as much as many people expected, but I think he is starting to evolve into a more complete player, one who can play well in all game situations.

Cover photo: Milwaukee Admirals