The patient wait for the Predators' arguably most highly-touted prospect should be realistically expected to play most of his 2019-2020 season in the NHL.
It's been two years since Eeli Tolvanen was drafted at the tail end of the first round by Nashville, when there were whispers that he may have been the 2017 draft's biggest steal.
Tolvanen has played in seven total NHL games in his career thus far, and has just one goal to show for it. This is not to discount his ability as an elite up-and-comer, but this is a league that demands results every single day you're a part of an organization.
The 2017 draft class featured the likes of Calder Trophy-winner Elias Pettersson, Stars' stud Miro Heiskanen, Colorado's rookie jewel Cale Makar, Montreal's next-big-thing Ryan Poehling, and 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Robert Thomas. The meteoric rises of the former three don't necessarily come as a surprise; they were taken fifth, third, and fourth, respectively, so their expectations were set high from the start. Thomas and Poehling, however, were drafted later in the first round.
One of them already has his name freshly etched into NHL permanence.
The point is, every athlete is different. Every player in the NHL has his own unique story about how he got to where he is today. Not everyone can come shooting out of a cannon like Pettersson, and certainly not everyone can win a Stanley Cup in his rookie season like Thomas. So, measuring Eeli Tolvanen against his draft peers is probably not a worthwhile metric to hone in on.
Preds staff and fans alike were flush with excitement when Tolvanen made his debut on March 31, 2018. He had just wrapped up his historic season with the KHL's Helsingin Jokerit organization, recording 36 total points in 49 games played. He didn't quite live up to the excitement his first go-around, but very few make sizable impressions their first day on the job.
Tolvanen spent the better part of last season work-shopping his game in Milwaukee, wherein he recorded a total of 22 points in 45 games played. However, he posted an abysmal -15 in the +/- statistical category, meaning he was on the ice more during the opposing teams' successes rather than his own team's.
The Preds demonstrated in the 2019 Playoffs that they desperately need to proliferate their offense- and soon. Tolvanen- with his esteemed shot accuracy, quick release, and speedy smooth skating- could be the team's missing piece. Rather, he needs to be that piece to slot into a second or third line wing spot. We don't know for sure how long the legend of Rocco Grimaldi is going to last. Craig Smith and his steady hand will be a free agent at the end of this coming season. Miikka Salomaki is the team's most consistent enigma both offensively and defensively.
The Preds should be looking for Tolvanen to drastically up his NHL production in 2019-2020. If he doesn't, the team should look to offload him when his entry-level deal ends in 2021.