When asked what he wanted to prove to those around him - and himself - at Predators Rookie Camp and the 2019 NHL Prospects Showcase, Eeli Tolvanen simply stated he desired to show he still had that natural-scoring touch.
The 20-year-old Preds winger tallied twice on Tuesday (and four times throughout the showcase) to help Nashville to a 6-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes and a three-game sweep of the tournament.
After defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1, on Saturday afternoon, the Predators topped the Washington Capitals in overtime, 3-2, on Sunday, with Tolvanen potting the winner.
Tuesday brought the finale that saw the Preds score four in the first period, before adding two more in the third to earn yet another victory.
"The guys played really well," Milwaukee Admirals Head Coach Karl Taylor said. "Tactically, I thought our team played well together, played with a lot of speed. If we could just do that first period a few times this year in Nashville and Milwaukee, I think we'll all be happy. The guys were flying and playing fast and quick and it was everything we wanted to see. We got out of the gates really well today and had a great result."
Tolvanen opened the scoring on Tuesday when he finished off an impressive shift with his linemates Rem Pitlick and 2019 first-round pick Philip Tomasino. Defenseman Jeremy Davies put the Preds up 2-0 by taking another feed from Tomasino and driving to the net, roofing a backhand shot off the crossbar and in to complete the play.
"They're two high-end players, for sure," Tomasino said of Tolvanen and Pitlick. "Once I started to play with them, it was pretty easy to figure things out. I was lucky enough to get the chance to play with those guys, and I think we did a pretty good job as a line throughout the course of these last two games."
Video: Tolvanen, Tomasino talk Preds Rookie Camp
Less than 20 seconds after Davies struck, Tolvanen got his second of the day when he and Pitlick combined off a 2-on-1. Egor Afanasyev recorded his second of the tournament with a crafty play of his own at the side of the net for a 4-0 Nashville advantage through 20 minutes.
"He's an excellent player, just the guy I like to play with," Tolvanen said of Pitlick. "He sees the ice pretty well, he's a really speedy forward and he can be a two-way guy, too. I like playing with him, and it's easy to play with him. He gives me the puck and tells me where to go, and he's going to put it on my tape."
Carolina settled down in the second, with Eetu Luostarinen and Janne Kuokkanen tallying for the Canes in the middle stanza. Later, the Hurricanes cut the Nashville lead to one goal in the third. But after the Predators excellent penalty kill went to work again, the home team iced it.
Anthony Richard deposited a shot off a scramble at the net mouth for his second of the tournament, before defenseman Josh Healey sent one into an empty Carolina net.
The goal of a showcase like this, first and foremost, is to get better as individuals and as a team. But, let's be honest - who doesn't want to win too?
"Everybody loves to win, and I think this team was really focused since the first day we got here," Tolvanen said. "We had a couple days of practice and lots of us were in Milwaukee last year and kind of knows the structure, so it was easy to play with everybody."
"We had two practices before the tournament started, so how fast we really translated that from practice over to the games was pretty awesome," Tomasino said. "It showed in the final results, so it was good for us. I got the chance to learn new systems, and it helped along the way. Overall, that was probably something that from the beginning was a big influence in this tournament for sure."
Video: Head Coach Karl Taylor talks Preds prospects
Seemingly just as quickly as it started, Predators Rookie Camp has now concluded, with main training camp on the horizon. For those who participated in these three games, it's a perfect jumpstart for them before they begin to match up with the NHL veterans on the Nashville ledger over the coming days.
They all know there is only room for 23 players on the final roster that will be announced come Oct. 1, and although it may be a long shot for some to find their name on that list, it is worth a try.
After all, Predators coaches haven't set anything yet, and just as the rookies impressed over the past few days, there's plenty of time to turn a few more heads.
"I want to see them continue doing what we were doing well here as they move into camp against the NHL players," Taylor said. "Some of the messaging was 'make sure when you go into it, you respect the older guys, but you're trying to kick them off the chair.' They're not going to give you their job, you've got to kick them off the chair. Make sure you continue forward and do the things you do well, but be ready for a battle and don't just accept that those guys are ahead of you. You've got to prove that you're ahead of them."
Video: Tolvanen tallies twice, Preds beat Canes
Eeli Tolvanen led the Predators squad at the tournament with four goals and one assist; Rem Pitlick finished with two goals and three assists in three games.
Ken Appleby was in goal for the Preds on Tuesday and stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced.
Predators defenseman Dante Fabbro earned another day off on Tuesday, while forward Anthony Richard returned to the lineup after receiving a rest on Sunday. Predators Rookie Captain Alexandre Carrier was joined by Richard, Frederic Allard and Yakov Trenin who served as assistants on Tuesday.
With rookie camp now complete, the attention turns to Predators Training Camp, which begins with off-ice meetings on Thursday. On-ice testing comes Friday, and the first full day of practice is slated for Saturday at Centennial Sportsplex. A full training camp schedule and roster will be released on Wednesday.