One of the first big moves that Brad Treliving made in revamping the Calgary Flames’ scouting system was throwing more resources into the United States Hockey League. That circuit has been up and coming as a developmental league over the past several years, as once it was known entirely for the presence of the U.S. National Development Team but now there are a lot of teams producing strong NHL prospects.
USHL product and Finnish import winger Eeli Tolvanen is an offensive machine that could tantalize the Flames at 16th overall.
From Dobber Prospects:
Tolvanen is a sniper; his whole game revolves around supporting his arsenal of shots. He has a deceptive and quick release, shots from anywhere with pinpoint accuracy. Tolvanen can shoot in stride, with speed on a rush, or unleash an Ovechkin like one-timer off the half boards on the powerplay and bang in some dirty goals from the crease as well. He skates well and has good vision to read and react to the play well. He is undersized by traditional NHL standards but he is committed to play for Boston College in his post draft year where he can hit the gym to add some size and strength. His fantasy upside is among the top of his draft class.
From Future Considerations:
This goal-scoring winger is a real offensive threat…plays with speed, intensity and skills…elusive with the puck on his stick…likes to shoot and has an impressive accurate shot with an absolutely deadly release…positions himself correctly to be open for the one-timer…a smooth, agile skater and covers ground at high rates of speed in transition…quick thinker who doesn’t stop moving his feet…good speed when carrying the puck and can accelerate quickly…skilled stickhandler who protects the puck well…an underrated playmaking forward that is a dual threat in the offensive zone, although he does love to shoot…aware of defensive-zone puck movement and positions himself responsibly…hunter on the forecheck who looks to turn over pucks and quickly switch to offense…effective on the backcheck as he looks to break up scoring chances…does not avoid physical play, but does not initiate it either…will become a NHL goal-scorer and difference-maker.
Bob McKenzie’s preseason preview had this very astute line: The Finnish winger is a pure sniper — with an NHL shot and NHL release — who has the tools to be the best pure scorer in this draft.” Jeff Marek agreed in his March assessment, calling Tolvanen “one of the top pure snipers in the draft this season.”
He’s a small but offensively gifted left shot winger who plays in the USHL but is headed for Boston College. Hmm… that sounds familiar. For those who are curious, Tolvanen’s older and larger than Johnny Gaudreau was in his draft year, and also doesn’t have quite as impressive offensive numbers. But the parallels do remain.
Tolvanen had a really strong year, his second in the USHL. He scored at just over a point-per-game pace and was also about a point-per-game player at the World Juniors. He was one of the best players in the entire USHL, finishing eighth in points and third in goals. His offensive totals put him second among first-time draft eligible players in the entire league, and he led his team in scoring by 13 points. These efforts earned him a spot on the USHL’s year-end All-Star Team.
Digging down a bit, the encouraging things about Tolvanen are that he shoots a ton and his numbers weren’t propped up by special teams. He led the USHL in shots and generated just 13 points on the power play (something that sets him well apart from basically every other top 20 scorer in the USHL aside from 2018 prospect Andrei Svechnikov). All in all, Tolvanen drove the bus offensively for Sioux City this past season and was one of the most dangerous offensive players in the entire circuit.
Availability and fit
Looking at recent rankings and projections, there’s about a 50/50 shot that Tolvanen is available at 16th overall. But between his Finnish heritage, his performance in the USHL and the fact that he’s an offensively potent winger, he seems like he’d be a good fit in the Flames organization. He’s not huge, but he’s headed to a really strong Boston College program that knows how to prepare their players for NHL success. That said, the fact that he’s tabbed for a college stint means that the Flames will have to be patient with him and not hope that he’s an instant silver bullet to solve their developmental system woes.