Nashville Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen made quite the impression during his Winter Olympics debut, recording four points in Team Finland's 5-2 win over Team Germany on Thursday in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The 18-year-old forward was Nashville's first-round pick (No. 30 overall) in the most recent NHL Draft and has been scoring at a record-setting rate in his rookie season in the KHL, playing for Jokerit. Tolvanen has already notched the highest-scoring season by an 18-year-old in KHL history, recording 17 goals and 17 assists (for 34 points) in 47 games; Evgeny Kuznetsov, now with the Washington Capitals, tallied 32 points (17g-15a) in 44 games during his 2010-11 KHL season at 18.
Following Tolvanen's nomination to the Finnish Winter Olympics men's hockey team, Preds General Manager David Poile and Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton expressed their interest in seeing what the young forward could accomplish on an even bigger stage.
Tolvanen's wrister - that was described as the best shot release available in the 2017 NHL Draft - was on full display in his first-ever Olympic game. The winger cut to the slot and rifled a shot to the top right corner to put the Finns up 3-1. The forward also dished out three assists to complete his four-point debut at the games.
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Poile said Tuesday, prior to the Predators' 4-3 overtime win over the Blues, Tolvanen could possibly even be a potential piece for the Preds' playoff roster later this year.
"We've talked to his agent and he's going to have a long year… Olympics and more regular-season games and playoffs with Jokerit, so we can't get ahead of ourselves," Poile said. "We have to see what happens with all the hockey he has left to play."
"Tolvanen is one of the top scorers in the KHL and for an 18-year-old, that's impressive," Fenton said. "The way he approaches the game with the scorer's mentality is exactly what we're looking for."
Pekka Rinne's brother-in-law, Mika Pyorala (who is married to Rinne's twin sister), also added a goal in the victory. Finland's next game is Friday at 6 a.m. (CT) and will be broadcast on the USA Network.
Video: Go all-access with first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen