Nashville Predators forward Eeli Tolvanen reaching goals while reaching for goals

·3 min read

At first Eeli Tolvanen succeeded.

The Nashville Predators forward was on pace for 1,400-plus goals this season after he scored on his first shot on goal, 3 minutes, 18 seconds into the opener against the Seattle Kraken.

Tolvanen has tried and tried again since to score, but to no avail. After Tuesday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the 22-year-old had come up empty on his next 58 consecutive shots since that score, a span of 21 games and two periods.

Tolvanen summed up the dry spell with two words: "It (stinks)," he said.

He had just one point in the next 13 games following the opener, including a nine-game point-less streak.

Disappointment about not scoring — he also had just five assists going into Tuesday — hasn't caused other parts of his game to stink, though.

"I feel like I'm playing the best hockey I've ever played," he said.

He went on to explain that he's more mature, better in the defensive zone, has improved on the forecheck. That he feels like the bounces will go his way eventually.

In the meantime, he'll "keep working on little things, and when the first one goes in, I feel like it will be a snowball effect."

Predators coach John Hynes said Tolvanen has managed to stay on the correct side of the fine line despite his lack of scoring. What easily could distract and detract from the rest of Tolvanen's game hasn't, Hynes said, which is why he continues to find playing time for a young player who continues to try to find his way in the NHL.

Rough stretch for Preds: Nashville Predators coach John Hynes not about to 'let it be' during recent rough stretch

This season's surprises: Biggest pleasant surprises for the Nashville Predators this season?

Listen: Catfish Corner Predators podcast: MVP? Biggest surprise? Is this team overachieving?

He said Tolvanen has played "pretty well" of late and that he has had "substance to his game, which allows me to continue to play him."

"That age-old question sometimes with young guys in the NHL," he said. "If it happens where they go on these situations where they don't get points, OK, then do the scoring chances dry up? If the scoring chances dry up the game drops."

That, Hynes said, is the tipping point, where it's difficult for a player to play his way out of that. Sometimes that happens at the NHL level. Sometimes players are sent to the American Hockey League to work out the kinks.

Tolvanen has been there, done that during his four seasons as a Predators since he was picked 30th overall in the 2017 draft. There was the hype that came with being a first-round pick. There was the adjustment from bigger KHL rinks to smaller, North American rinks.

Tolvanen isn't at that point, despite the low numbers in the goals and assists column.

Last season, his first full NHL season, really, resulted in career bests in goals (11), assists (11), games played (40) and ice time (14:48).

He's down to around 13 minutes per game this season - a number that no doubt will increase should he increase the numbers in the other columns.

"It's just little things, and it will come," he said.

Reach Paul Skrbina at pskrbina@tennessean.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville Predators Eeli Tolvanen struggles score, still contibuting

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting