The Oshawa Generals began their bid for the 2021 Memorial Cup, and with it came a plan to build a roster that could win the national title on home ice. Their plans clearly began with one name in mind, Philip Tomasino. They already had 2020 NHL Entry Draft first-round bubble prospects in Lleyton Moore and Ty Tullio on their roster but what they were truly missing for their Cup run was a bonafide game-breaking forward. That sounds a little bit like another team I know at the NHL level, by the way.
So, general manager Roger Hunt took a look at his assets and took a major swing at landing Tomasino, a dynamic junior superstar.
9 Draft Picks
Nine was the number of draft picks the Gens used to acquire Tomasino from the Niagara Ice Dogs. Think of a time a player required that many assets to acquire at the deadline. It becomes even more impressive when it’s a player that you have no guarantee of retaining for more than the remaining 26 games.
Tomasino’s play backed up Hunt’s actions and made it obvious the deal would pay instant dividends, Tomasino had 57 points through his first 36 games with Niagara and finished the season with 43 points in 26 games with Oshawa. He was one of four players to break 100 points in the OHL in a shortened season. He’s good. What really drives the point of how good he is though is the fact that Hunt made that deal so he would have a game-breaker for the 2021 Memorial Cup run and there was no written commitment that Tomasino would play more than 26 games for them.
Tomasino has not only been signed to an entry-level contract but is not eligible to spend time in the AHL next year so his next season will be with the Nashville Predators. The contrary would be for him to have another season to terrorize the OHL and make Hunt a smart man.
So was this blockbuster trade a laughable case of asset management, or is it a sign that Tomasino is a true superstar on the rise? Is he just a junior superstar or is he ready for the NHL? While you think about your answers to those questions, allow me to get you excited, Smashville.
The value of Tomasino’s production post-deadline sure lived up to the king’s ransom that he commanded, but with a Nashville qualifying round exit and a loss in the Alexis Lafreniere lottery….could he see his call-up as early as next season? I asked a local scout to see what kind of upside Tomasino really has and how soon he could be in the Music City.
“Next year his ceiling is probably as a power-play specialist and would benefit from the extra space. He still needs to work on his defensive game and like most 18-year-olds, needs to get quite a bit stronger if he’s going to be going against grown men. But his future ceiling is very, very high. He’s incredibly skilled and one of his strongest assets is his skating and puck handling, which is the way that the NHL is going. His shot isn’t what I would consider elite as of now, but he’s also not a weakness. As he gets stronger, you’ll likely see his shot improve and that will take him to that next level. His ability to play with pace and do everything at such a high speed will almost surely translate to the NHL, whether that’s next year or in a couple years from now”
It’s not a total guarantee of making the jump in his eyes, but he definitely recognizes the possibility.
The Nashville Predators Need a Gamebreaker
To say that the Predators do not have a deep farm system is an understatement. This is not to say they have not done an effective job drafting and developing – the team has still done a great job with players like Dante Fabbro, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Viktor Arvidsson, Auston Watson, and Ryan Ellis.
Related: Predators’ Top 5 Draft Busts
They are, however, razor-thin when you look beyond that. Some publications have been higher on Eeli Tolvanen in the past and some still are, but he and Tomasino are the only two forwards in the conversation for future stars upfront for Nashville. Corey Pronman is the senior NHL prospects writer for The Athletic and his yearly organizational prospect rankings slate the Predators at 29th in the league, which isn’t great and there is lots of room for improvement, but what he had to say about Tomasino was a promising sight.
Tomasino was one of the top players in the OHL last season and took off especially following a trade from Niagara to Oshawa. He’s an exciting player to watch who is full of talent. Tomasino’s high-end speed and skill make him very dangerous off the rush. He can push the pace and make skilled plays at full speed, traits that will translate to the NHL. He can play a fast-paced game, but is also a great playmaker who can hold pucks and find seams in the defense. His playmaking is his strength, but I appreciated his shot and goal-scoring more last season and his ability to finish in close. Tomasino doesn’t have a big, bulky frame so against physical players he can struggle a bit but I thought his consistency in his effort was better than a year ago.from ‘2020 NHL organizational rankings: No. 29 Nashville Predators,’ The Athletic, 08/25/2020)
A Dynamic Puck Carrier
A fast-paced player with good vision and an offensive toolkit is something rarely seen in Nashville. The team has been starving for a true offensive dynamo. Filip Forsberg is the only player that comes to mind, so Tamasino could be a welcome sight.
No prospect is ever a for-sure thing but it would be hard to imagine a world where Tomasino does not at least show flashes of greatness at the next level. The key will be his compete and drive to become bigger and stronger on the puck to ensure that his explosiveness, creativity, and transitional game do not get lost at the pro game due to inability to physically create space. This shouldn’t be too large of a concern when you consider Hunt gives him praise for his prep and focus. (from ‘The Gifted: Why Philip Tomasino is the puck-dominant carrier the Predators need,’ The Athletic, 04/15/2020)
It’s not hard to find people willing to praise his skillset, from Generals skills coach Anthony Cornacchia saying he’s one of the best puck carriers in the game, to his blue-chip prospect label in the Dobber Hockey Prospect report
His shot and vision are elite – he sets up his mates better than pretty much anyone else in the league. His toolbox is full – he’s a complete playerDobbers Prospect report
If you are a follower of Dobber Hockey, they are big on Tomasino as you can see from their write-up and Cam Robinson’s glowing Twitter reviews. He’s a highlight reel machine.
I’m not a math guy but for Nashville to bring Tomasino up would mean a current player would have to lose their spot in the lineup. It’s not often you see a rookie player selected outside the top-five in an NHL draft step in as a rookie in the top-six. The Predators’ current top-six consists of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, Nick Bonino and Mikael Granlund. I think Tomasino plays himself into that group in no time.
Kyle Turris – Odd Man Out
Right now Kyle Turris is in the third-line centre role. It is up for debate whether Tomasino will be a centre at the NHL level but with it being his natural position, he deserves the shot. It’s also a convenient excuse to get rid of the $6 million that Turris carries going into some flat cap seasons, and replace it with a high upside player on an entry-level contract.
Related: Subban-Weber Trade Revisited
There is no shortage of people lining up to praise Tomasino’s skill and toolset but the same can be said for many players his age. This is not to say we shouldn’t be excited about the player, but I hope the rest of this article has at least shed light on the ceiling that this player could provide in a lineup whose offence is less than dynamic. The point I truly don’t want to be lost, however, is that with the Predators’ lack of players with his skillset and potential, not to mention his need for a larger challenge, it makes a lot of sense for the Predators to give Tomasino a real solid look next season.