Predators Head Coach John Hynes and forward Ryan Johansen had nothing but positive things to say about Eeli Tolvanen after last night’s loss to the Dallas Stars. The 23-year-old forward has been in the middle of the battle for the open spot on the second line after the Predators sent Philip Tomasino to Milwaukee to start the season.

Many (myself included) erroneously assumed Tomasino would start the season on the second line. However, Kiefer Sherwood played with the line during the first Global Series game against the San Jose Sharks. Sherwood also started the second game, but was swapped with Tolvanen midway through the game. After returning from Prague, the team decided to send Tomasino to Milwaukee; Tolvanen held on to the spot for the third game of the season.

Tolvanen one of few bright spots in loss

Even though the Predators suffered an ugly defeat in a game that featured sloppy passing and lethargic play, Eeli Tolvanen’s play was a bright spot. The lone goal of the night came as he fired a laser of a shot toward the goal that Ryan Johansen was able to deflect into the net. After the game, Johansen had nothing but praise for the young forward, “I played with Tolvy all last year–love the kid. He’s a horse. He’s a little pitbull. He does a lot of good things. He earns everything he gets and I know what to expect from him every night. I thought he played a solid game.”

Predators Head Coach John Hynes doubled down on his praise for Eeli Tolvanen during his postgame availability, “Tolvanen is playing really well. When you look at him, he’s playing the way we want to see him play. He’s got poise and execution, with the puck he’s an offensive threat and his game doesn’t change when he doesn’t have it.”

It isn’t just the eye test and some praise from colleagues, the stats back it up as well:

Hynes praised Tolvanen’s play with and without the puck. The chart above shows that Tolvanen (along with his line) are producing chances while severely limiting their opponent’s offensive chances while they’re on ice. Tolvanen is also tied with Nino Niederreiter for the most points on the team with three. Yes, the sample size is small, but so far, Eeli Tolvanen looks like the right choice for the second line.

–featured image via Chris Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports–