Let’s take some time to give a mad amount of respect to Philip Tomasino for responding to the challenge from Head Coach Andrew Brunette to up his play while being benched multiple games and getting minimal ice time when he did play.
When the Predators first started turning to a new era of hockey and getting youth involved heavily in the lineup, Tomasino was kind of that first draft pick to get things rolling in that direction back in 2019 as the 24th overall pick.
To jog your memory, the Predators had just suffered the worst choke job in their playoff history by getting upset in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, signaling that their Stanley Cup window quickly slammed shut just one season after winning a President’s Trophy.
The pain is real, and it still lingers. But then our attention turned to drafting offensive talent at the forward position, and Tomasino came in with a lot of upside.
Tomasino was the First Draft Pick to Bring in the “Youth Movement” in 2019
Before Tomasino was drafted, the Predators had really only gone heavy on a 1st round forward with Eeli Tolvanen and Kevin Fiala if you want to go all the way back to 2014. Other than that, the franchise usually went heavy on the defensive side, with 1st round picks such as Dante Fabbro, Seth Jones and Ryan Ellis.
Tomasino signaled a shift in drafting strategy, and also gearing up for the impending rebuild. The rebuild never really came, but the expectations has always been that Tomasino will eventually become a dynamic top-six player for the Predators.
However, 2023-24 got off to a weird start for Tomasino. A new head coach in Andrew Brunette has shown that there are no favorites and everyone has to step up. Tomasino was mysteriously benched for three games after playing in the first four.
When Tomasino did return to the starting lineup, he was getting rock bottom ice time with under 11 minutes for two games, and less than 12 minutes another game.
Confidence seems to be Growing for Both Tomasino and from HC Brunette
Tomasino kept at it. He waited for his opportunity to get back in, and with the Thomas Novak injury and the release of Samuel Fagemo, Tomasino hasn’t looked back now that he’s back to being a regular starter.
Liam Foudy was another waiver pickup that seemed to directly signal that faith was being lost in Tomasino, but quite the contrary. Tomasino got the start over Foudy against the Penguins and Jets while the Predators chose to skate with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
Again, that shows that the confidence Brunette has in Tomasino is growing. These things matter. Brunette is playing chess with this lineup trying to figure out what is sustainable once the season hits that long grind, and more injuries inevitably occur.
Tomasino has points in five of his last six games while seeing his ice time elevate to over 15 minutes over the last three in the midst of a six-game win streak for the Predators.
Ahead of the game against the Penguins on Tuesday, Tomasino said something that is the mark of a leader and a veteran;
"“Doing the little things, that leads to being selfless and putting other guys in good spots”. (Per Bally Sports South)"
Performing right around his NHL career average in terms of points per game (0.47 per game), Tomasino hasn’t regressed. He could’ve responded to the benching and checked out. A natural human response may have been for him to let it affect his game and just look forward to going elsewhere and thriving, much like the path so many young Predators forwards have taken in the past.
But that didn’t happen, and now in the final year of his ELC, Tomasino is looking to not only simply stick in the starting lineup, but excel. He’s getting time on the second power play unit and is making the most out of being a bottom-six player.
The Predators front office definitely would like to re-sign Tomasino to an extension before the 2024 offseason, but much of that will hinge on how much more development Tomasino shows to General Manager Barry Trotz. As of now, he’s making a strong case for himself to get invested in for another year or two at only age 22.
Simply speaking, you can’t bring up the Nashville Predators’ current six-game winning streak without bringing up Tomasino. That kind of will and determination will keep him in the NHL a long time.