There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Eeli Tolvanen. The Finnish forward has already surpassed Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s KHL record set in 2010-11 for the most points produced by a teenager. Tolvanen has amassed 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists) in 41 games with Jokerit and the team has 8 games remaining in their league schedule. It feels quite like the Nashville Predators got themselves a steal with the thirtieth overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft.
As far as steals go the Predators might have done more in that department. A month prior to the most recent draft they managed to sign forward Victor Ejdsell to a two-year entry-level contract following a 2016-17 season where he earned MVP honors in Sweden’s second flight – Allsvenskan. Similar to Tolvanen, Ejdsell has yet to make the leap into the professional ranks in North America but instead is spending his 2017-18 season playing in a top European league. Ejdsell is showing with HV71 that his efforts that put him on an NHL radar wasn’t a fluke.
Ejdsell is listed just shy of 6’4″ on his player page – or, more accurately, 195 centimeters. If I didn’t know better I would say he must have shrunk a tad. I had the chance to see him at Rookie Development Camp in Nashville and the 22-year old from Karlstad, Sweden is a mountain on skates registered at 6’5″ – and he still looked bigger. It felt fitting that Ejdsell’s youth career started with a team called Viking HC. He looks like one.
What was impressive of Ejdsell was his 2016-17 season with BIK Karlskoga in Sweden’s second tier. He lit up the Allsvenskan and ended the season as the league’s top scorer: 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) in 50 games. For someone with his size he displayed a great mix of strength, speed, and skill that made him an overwhelming force to match-up against. He could skate with an extra gear but also dial it back in order to deliver really great passes or find soft spots in a defense for lethal scoring chances off his tape.
The worry here was that 2016-17 was the first true season in which Ejdsell put all of these great attributes together with consistency. If not purely that, it was that he was doing all of these great things -not- in the top flight of Sweden or another upper echelon European league but in a second tier league.
Ejdsell had previous experience playing for Färjestad BK in the SHL. In that time he had 2 points (2 goals, 0 assists) in 21 games across two different seasons hopping up from their J-20 team. He even had Allsvenskan experience back in the 2015-16 season with Timrå IK -but- did start showing signs of what would come: 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 20 games. This all made it tricky to gauge whether or not Ejdsell’s work in 2016-17 was a flash in the pan. Yet, it’s a question worth investing into if there is an answer of no. That’s where HV71 stepped in. That’s where the Nashville Predators would follow not too long after. Ejdsell had earned the opportunities to show whether or not he could do more than claim an Allsvenskan MVP title. Right now he is doing it.
HV71 has 16 games remaining in their 2017-18 season. They have 16-14-3-3 record and are seventh out of the fourteen team table that the SHL operates with. Ejdsell is second on the team in scoring right now with 22 points (13 goals, 9 assists) in 34 games. His 13 goals leads the team. His 77 shots on goal is tied with Robin Figren for the most on the team. His 18 hits are eighth most on the team. And he does this while averaging 14:13 of ice time per game. To give you an NHL comparable for that amount of ice time: Kevin Fiala has averaged 14:58 per game this season with the Predators.
With Fiala’s name mentioned we can also bring up the HV71 connection and his path to joining the Milwaukee Admirals mid-way through the 2014-15 season. In fact, yesterday we celebrated the third anniversary of the news that Fiala had been reassigned by the Predators from HV71 to the Admirals. Fiala at that point was 18-years old and produced 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in 20 games with HV71. Ejdsell is four-years older than Fiala was at the time of that recall and is well ahead of him as far as his production and likely polish goes. And yet, with that in mind, it still feels as though it isn’t the worst thing for Ejdsell to fulfill his 2017-18 season with HV71 and have a complete SHL season under his belt for the first time in his professional career. You can look to current Admirals forward, and 2018 AHL All-Star representative, Emil Pettersson as an example of a player who logged significant playing time professional in Sweden before making the jump to the AHL and things feeling rather seamless. There isn’t a rush for Ejdsell to play in North America even though that is the ultimate goal. The time he is getting with HV71 is a significant amount and that is developmental experience that will only help him in the long run.
Tolvanen is the sort of forward with natural scoring gifts the likes of which makes me feel Milwaukee probably won’t see him. It would probably take a Filip Forsberg level situation such as the 2013-14 season where we were afforded the chance to see him blossom into the NHL talent that he is. While Tolvanen could do that – Ejdsell is the one where he will make it to Milwaukee and the AHL in due time. What’s exciting is the prospect that he is showing a continuation of the success he had in Sweden that made the Predators want to sign him. Ejdsell could be yet another great find by Nashville that pays off down the road.
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