We dive into some great questions in this week’s Predators mailbag.
As always you all asked some very strong questions for this week’s mailbag. This week we answer questions about whether or not Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen will represent Finland at the upcoming Winter Olympics, how this team is so successful despite not having a 40+ goal scorer and how this year’s team at the midway point stacks up to last season’s.
What is Eeli Tolvanen's status WRT 2018 Olympics?
— Barrett Thompson (@thompsonbr87) January 11, 2018
Team Finland has not yet announced its roster for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, but one would assume that Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen has a very strong chance of making the cut.
The 18-year-old has been lighting up the KHL – Russia’s top league and the second best league in the world – with 17 goals and 16 helpers through 41 games played with Jokerit Helsinki. To put that into context, Tolvanen broke Evgeny Kuznetzov’s KHL scoring record for an 18-year-old back on January 9 when he hit the 33-point mark in 40 games; the now Washington Capitals forward’s record was 32 points in 44 games. Tolvanen also recently represented Finland at the World Junior Championship with one goal and five assists in five games played before his team was knocked out of the tournament by the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.
The kicker here is the league Tolvanen is playing in. As of right now, the KHL has not come out and said that it will or will not release players to participate in the Olympics due to the fact that Russia was banned from competing in the 2018 Games after a doping investigation. With that being said, a large chunk of Team Canada’s announced roster plays in the KHL meaning that Finland could go this same route naming its roster, but then have to play the waiting game on whether or not KHL players will be allowed to play.
Remember, this year’s Winter Games won’t feature NHL players.
How does this first half of the season compare to last? And what's your projection for the back half?
— Charlie Burris (@Charlie_Burris) January 12, 2018
Nashville is one game past its midway point of the season and holds a record of 25-11-6 through 42 games played while holding onto the No. 2 spot in the Central Division. Through 42 games a year ago, the Predators were 19-16-7 and sat in the No. 4 spot in the division.
So, from just looking at the records, the Preds are obviously in a much better spot this season at the halfway point compared to last year’s team.
If we look at some statistics, the numbers back up that claim as well. The Predators are averaging 3.05 goals per contest at the moment, and through 42 games a year ago they were averaging just 2.74 goals per game which is quite the jump. With that differential in numbers, you can look at the simple stat of shots on goal between the two seasons and they are almost identical. Last year Nashville had 1,299 shots on net through 42 games (30.9 shots per game) while this season the Preds have 1,279 shots on goal (30.5 shots per game). This simply means the team’s shooting percentage has gone up and certainly plays a factor in lighting the lamp more often this year compared to a year ago at this time.
Putting the puck into the net isn’t everything however, keeping it out of your own is a pretty big deal as well and Pekka Rinne has been exceptional this season. The Finnish netminder currently holds a 21-8-3 record and a .925 save percentage through 32 starts while through 32 games a season ago he was just 15-11-6 with a .919 save percentage. While the save percentage difference isn’t a huge drop off, it’s even more so impressive seeing as how this season he’s already faced 1,007 shots while this time a year ago he had seen only 941 shots.
Why do you think the preds are so successful without having any real standouts. No 40+ goal scorers and no one(with maybe one exception) in line for individual awards.
— Mark Witt Compton (@wittcompton) January 10, 2018
I think some could maybe overthink the answer to this question but I think the answer is simple and it’s the fact that the Predators are one of the deepest teams in the NHL. They’ve been known for having the deepest blue line in the entire league for a handful of years now, but the forward group has caught up to them as well.
The story offensively has always been a lack of center depth, but it’s never been deeper at the moment with Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino and company manning the middle of the ice. That trio and the rest of the centers on the roster aren’t just regular depth either, they’re true scoring depth.
Filip Forsberg is the most elite sniper of the forward group and of course can score in bunches. Viktor Arvidsson is consistently on the scoresheet, plus you have Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith both playing at a very high-level and you throw those players on top a defensive group that too can score at will and you’ve got the recipe for a dangerous and potentially successful squad.
Rinne can not be overlooked in the equation either as he has been playing very well all season as he was named an All-Star for the second time in his career.