Eeli Tolvanen (photo courtesy of the USHL)
The dynamic Finnish national plans to return to the United States League's Sioux City Musketeers for the 2016-17 campaign. After that, he is likely off to Boston College, to follow in his brother's NCAA footsteps. Meanwhile, the powerful Russian is hooking up with Moscow Dynamo.
The CHL Import Draft can bring some incredible talents to major junior teams, but some franchises can get stung when they shoot for the moon. Two franchises that appear to be in that situation are the OHL's Oshawa Generals and WHL's Kootenay Ice.
I've been told that Eeli Tolvanen, an incredibly skilled winger that was chosen by Oshawa, will not be reporting to the Generals. Instead, the Finnish national will return to the United States League's Sioux City Musketeers, where he will be joined by 2016 Edmonton Oilers pick Aapeli Rasanen.
Tolvanen, who has a wicked release and "all the moves on the joystick," as one scout delightfully put it to me this season, is a top prospect for the 2017 NHL draft. He recently committed to Boston College, following in the NCAA footsteps of brother Atte Tolvanen. Atte is a goaltender who just completed his freshman season with Northern Michigan.
According to my sources, Tolvanen wanted continuity and was quite pleased with the plan coach Jay Varady had for the upcoming season in Sioux City. Tolvanen was a firebrand for the Musketeers as a rookie this past season, leading the team in goals and ranking second in points, despite missing 11 games due to international competition with Finland.
In April, Tolvanen led Finland to gold at the world under-18s in North Dakota, scoring seven times in seven games, tying for the team lead in offense with nine points (Rasanen also had nine).
As for Kootenay, I can confirm multiple reports out of Russia that Klim Kostin, whom the Ice selected first overall in the Import Draft, plans to stay back home. Kostin is a powerful and offensively-gifted player who is also a top prospect for the 2017 NHL draft. But apparently, he recently signed a contract with Moscow Dynamo and will be given a shot at making the KHL squad in the pre-season.
That's tough for the rebuilding Ice, but it's the chance you take in the Import Draft. Kootenay selected another Russian in the second round, defenseman Nikita Radzivilyuk, and I've been told he will come to the Ice for 2016-17 – so it's not all bad news.
But with opportunities to play against men back home, some of the top prospects see Europe as their best path to the NHL. Others want to get acclimated to the culture and language of North America, not to mention the rink size and style of play. There is no one-size-fits-all answer – even if that would make things easier for the GMs making the selections.