It’s rare for players taken late in the NHL Draft to amount to very much. But as 2016 Flames sixth round selection Eetu Tuulola proclaimed after he was selected: all things are possible in this life. After several years of progression and a couple productive years in Finland, Tuulola is bound for North America for the upcoming season.
He’s the 13th-ranked player on our 2019 prospects ranking.
How did we get here?
A product of Hameenliina, Finland – located just north of Helsinki – Tuulola grew up as the son of longtime Finnish pro Marko Tuulola, who played nearly 1,000 games in SM-Liiga. His older brother, Joni, is a Chicago Blackhawks prospect likely to play with the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs in 2019-20.
The younger Tuulola sibling has steadily progressed since stepping into major competition within his hometown team, HPK, when he was 13.
- 2011-12 [13 years old]: 9 points in 11 games in the U16s
- 2012-13 : 29 points in 32 games in the U16s
- 2013-14 : 51 points in 24 games in the U16s and 15 points in 18 games in the U18s
- 2014-15 : 28 points in 33 games in the U20s
- 2015-16 : 14 points in 29 games in the U20s and 1 point in 10 games in SM-Liiga
- 2016-17 : 31 points in 62 games in the WHL
- 2017-18 : 26 points in 51 games in SM-Liiga
The big-bodied right winger has jumped up the hockey ladder fairly consistently, either elevating his game by a level or upgrading his offensive output (sometimes both) for much of the past decade. The notable exception was his draft year (2015-16), where he dealt with adjusting to the pro game and the increased scrutiny of NHL scouts. He ended up being selected by the Flames in the sixth round, 156th overall.
He also represented Finland at a quartet of major international events: the Under-17s, the Under-18s, the Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the World Juniors. He’s never been the driver on an international team, but on a few occasions he’s been a strong role player.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
The 2018-19 campaign was Tuulola’s 20-year-old season and his second full pro campaign in the SM-Liiga.
He was sixth on his team in points, tied for fourth in goals and third on his team in penalty minutes – he tends to muck around in the corners and occasionally his rambunctiousness gets away from him. He helped HPK win their league championship, too. Relative to his age group, he was sixth in points among under-21 players, seventh in goals and fourth in penalty minutes.
For comparison’s sake, both Tuulola siblings had 63 points during their SM-Liiga tenures. Joni took 199 games to hit that market (0.36 points per game) while Eetu did it in 121 (0.52 points per game). So far in North America, Joni is at least a solid depth AHL player.
Those in the know
Finnish hockey writer Lassi Alanen scouts for Future Considerations and writes about prospects for Dobber Prospects (in addition to covering the NHL for Finnish outlet Jatkoaika. It’s safe to say he has some familiarity with Tuulola’s development.
He gave us his thoughts on how Tuulola’s 2018-19 campaign went in Finland.
Tuulola took a big and important step forward in his development last season. His D+1 season in the WHL was pretty terrible, and while he produced pretty well in 2017–2018, almost 60 percent of his points came on the power play. In 2018–2019, Tuulola was way more effective at even-strength. He could have had even more success, as he was one of the best on the team at producing expected goals and scoring chances but his overall shooting percentage dropped from 12.3 to 6.2. I liked how he supported his linemates at even-strength and utilized his frame in creating havoc around the net. His on-ice shot metrics were very good but there is also a strong team factor, as HPK was the best play-driving team in the league last season.
Alanen also gave his assessment of what Tuulola needs to improve to keep progressing in hockey.
Tuulola’s skating is still the biggest thing preventing me from being higher on him. There were improvements last season, though, so maybe he’ll get there eventually. In the best-case scenario, he would become a supportive third-line winger who could maybe contribute on the second power play unit.
On the horizon
Tuulola signed a three year entry level deal, so he’ll be in North America at least through the 2021-22 campaign. Based on the log-jam of more experienced bodies in Stockton – we’re looking at you Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, Ryan Lomberg, Buddy Robinson and Dillon Dube – it’s unlikely Tuulola will get any NHL time this season.
That said, given his size, scoring prowess and physicality, he could muscle his way into a depth role (or at least a call-up) over time with a strong first AHL season.
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