Welcome to the 2017 edition of the Hockey Wilderness mock draft. We’re doing things a little differently this time around. You’ll still be getting the same great draft profiles, but we’ve gone ahead and condensed the format to drive through all the picks in the first round in the 10 days leading up to the draft. In prior seasons we’ve brought you a pick each day up to the draft, but now we’re bringing 3 picks each day, culminating with the 31st pick right on draft day.
With a draft class that has not been regarded as being very deep, you have to dig in a little deeper to find that diamond in the rough. You’re going to need to take some risks with your selections as the draft winds it’s way past the first few picks. With the 10th overall selection in the 2017 Hockey Wilderness NHL Mock Draft, the Florida Panthers could strike gold with an under-sized Finnish winger whose shot is a nightmare for opposing goaltenders. With the 10th overall selection, the Florida Panthers take Eeli Tolvanen out of Souix City in the USHL.
Born: April 22, 1999 - Nummela, Finland
Height: 5’10” - Weight: 170lbs
Although Tolvanen’s 5’10” frame might scare off some scouts, his game will quickly quiet those doubts. He’s a speedy Finnish winger with soft hands and what many consider (myself included) the best shot in this years draft class. Simply put, Tolvanen likes to shoot the puck, a lot. Last season in the USHL he led the league in shots with 246 in just 52 games, a full 41 shots over the next guy in 4 less games. Tolvanen also ranked 3rd in the league in putting the biscuit in the basket with 30 goals. Add in 24 assists and the kid finished 8th in the league in scoring. Not bad for an undersized forward, eh?
Florida Panthers GM Dale Talon has said he will be looking for a pure goal scorer in the draft. If he’s still on the board, Eeli Tolvanen is an easy choice for Talon. Being one of the top goal scorers in the USHL as well as the concensus best shooter in the draft who despite having aspects of his game which need development, it would feel like a real mistake for Talon and the Panthers to pass on this opportunity.
One of the bigger knocks on the kid is his defensive play. Although he has worked to improve on the other side of the puck, it is still an aspect of his game that is a work in progress. He’s got the speed and hands to be great on the backcheck, he just needs to install that into his game and he could really help out in transition defense. His size also hurts him down low in the defensive zone. It’s tough trying to imagine the kid forcing a 6’3”, 220 lbs Charlie Coyle off a puck behind the net.
For what the kid lacks defensively however, he makes up for with an incredible shot. His wrist shot is elite, and he can adjust the angle and get the puck off his stick and in the back of the net in a flash. He’s straight lethal on the power play, often finding a space in the weak side circle and setting himself up for a one-timer that is tough to get in front of if you're the opposing goalie. If he doesn’t have space, he can deploy some fancy stick work to get himself open, and if that doesn’t work he can still hurt you by just ripping a shot off in traffic, space be damned!
How Does He Fit the Wild?
It’s tough not to get excited about what might be one of the best pure goal scorers in this draft class. This guy also checks all the boxes if you’re Chuck Fletcher. He’s being touted as a goal scoring forward. He’s hails from Finland. He’s committed to playing for Boston College this fall.
What more could the big boss really be looking for? You probably wouldn’t want to put this guy on a line with smaller forwards, but pairing him up on a line with the likes of Nino Niederreiter and Eric Staal could be intriguing.
How Can the Wild Get Him?
There’s the rub, folks. It’s going to cost you something, and it’s going to hurt. Tolvanen spent most of his season fluctuating in and out of the top 10 prospects. While his shot is amazing, his size and defensive game are likely driving his draft stock down into the 2nd 10 picks. To get into the mid-round this season might be a little easier. At 10, the asking price could still be pretty significant, and since the Wild do not possess a 1st round pick, that means an NHL player, and not your Nate Prosser types either.
This puts the Wild in a significant bind. Would they be willing to throw caution to the wind and grab an opportunity to swoop up a development project whose upside is off the charts if it’s going to cost them big time in the short term? With the expansion draft and the Wild’s cap situation you can’t say it’s impossible Fletcher would pull the trigger on a big deal for the kid, but I lean towards this being more fantasy than reality. Fletcher knows what he’s got, and he’ll know a lot more after the expansion draft. There’s a good thing going in Minnesota right now, and it’s a tough pill to swallow to rock the boat too much, right now.