Eeli Tolvanen, the 31st overall pick in the 2017 entry draft by the Nashville Predators, is heading back to Finland after his academic credentials were reportedly found wanting at Boston College.
With the expansion draft, entry draft and the free-agency signing deadline behind us, hockey GMs and fantasy pool fanatics alike are now in a brave new world of FA signings big and small.
You can easily miss some intriguing under-the radar acquisitions or extensions in the dog days of summer, so here’s our latest roundup of newly signed prospects to help keep you in the loop in one tidy package.
The most intriguing signing by a prospect in the past week was someone heading east across the Atlantic Ocean.
Kontinental Hockey League
RW Eeli Tolvanen signs a one-year contract: Whoa, did Nashville’s 30th-overall pick in last month’s entry draft just pull a U-turn back across the Atlantic in a deal that reportedly includes an option for 2018-19? The 18-year-old sniper scored 47 goals in 101 games (with 54 points in 52 games last season) for the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers during the past two campaigns. He committed to Boston College but was reportedly rejected by BC’s admissions office due to academic shortcomings. Jokerit welcomed him in a July 5 tweet, although his CHL rights are held by the Oshawa Generals and he’s eligible to play in the AHL.
Possessing in the words of one scout “unbelievable speed, brilliant shot,” Tolvanen has been compared to Nikita Kucherov. Maybe the Predators are fine with the young Finn returning home for a season or two or maybe they’re not. There’s no reference to the signing on their NHL website Saturday let alone a reaction. If you’ve drafted Tolvanen or are thinking about it, this situation bears close monitoring.
Detroit Red Wings
D Xavier Ouellet signs a two-year extension: The Frenchman signed a team-friendly deal with an AAV of $1.25 million per season. After apprenticing in the AHL for what seemed like an eternity, the soon-to-be 24-year-old proved he’s a dependable NHL-caliber blueliner with three goals, 12 points, 51 PIMs and plus-2 in 66 games. He proved he can handle physical play and even tangled with Dallas hardrock Antoine Roussel in a rare all-French bout. Speaking of a battle, he will have to earn a spot on a crowded Detroit blueline, but he’s a solid bet to do it. When Ouellet really gets rolling, don’t expect many points, but look for help in PIMs, plus/minus, hits and blocks from a solid second-pairing D-man or third pairing at worst.
New York Islanders
D Sebastian Aho signs three-year, entry-level contract: An extremely mobile blueliner (not to be confused with the Carolina forward of the same name), the undersized Swede has a tremendous hockey IQ and the ability to rush or pass the puck out of his zone. He had 10 goals and 30 points in 50 Swedish Hockey League games last season, and could translate some of that production to the NHL with proper development in the AHL, and some extra muscle. He’s worth monitoring.
LW Adam Johnson signs a two-year, entry-level contract: The undrafted free agent’s explosive skating piqued the interest of NHL Central Scouting five years ago in his first year of NHL draft eligibility. NHL teams soon lost interest due to physical immaturity and a lack of drive against sub-par high school opponents. Today, you see a bigger, stronger, more mature player who handles physical play better while retaining his swift skating and superior shot. Able to play every forward position, Johnson also helped on defense for the U of Minnesota-Duluth and played the point on the PP. He’ll undoubtedly play in the AHL to begin his pro career, but keep an eye on this sleeper.
St. Louis Blues
RW Klim Kostin signs a three-year, entry-level deal: The 6-3 Russian man of mystery fell to the Blues at the bottom of 2017’s first round with a pick they acquired from Pittsburgh for future Sidney Crosby bodyguard Ryan Reaves.
Klim Kostin scores for Russia against Team QMJHL:
A 31st-overall pick is a modest gamble for a player of Kostin’s production in international play, although he brings question marks for the Blues and any poolie who chooses him. Instead of coming over to play for the WHL’s Kootenay Ice, he stayed home and barely played for the KHL’s Moscow Dinamo, making it harder to project a path to the NHL. Add season-ending shoulder injury in January and there are reasons for concern. However, he’s big, strong, a good skater with a heavy shot and goes to tough areas. He’s been compared to Dustin Brown (the version who once scored 33 goals in a season, not the tired, used-up veteran with an albatross contract).
Vegas Golden Knights
LW Teemu Pulkkinen signed a one-year contract as an RFA: Previously shucked by the Red Wings, Wild and Coyotes (undoubtedly glad Vegas took him in the expansion draft), the frustrating Finn keeps getting chances due to his wicked puck and skating skill.
As it turned out, this was the only goal, and point, Teemu Pulkkinen had for the Arizona Coyotes:
Pulkkinen keeps moving on, and was forced to settle for a lowball $700,000 show-us-or-else deal from the Knights, because he’s maddeningly inconsistent. He’s played in 83 NHL games over five seasons yet remains a prospect because he has yet to prove himself as a reliable, bonafide big-league player. Vegas isn’t risking much and neither should you, but he’s 25 now, possibly more mature (about bloody time), and just might be playing for his final chance at big bucks in the NHL. A last-round pick who might pay off. Or not.
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Come back next Saturday for deep, under-the-radar hockey pool advice and keep reading Hayden Soboleski’s Ramblings on Sundays.
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