The NHL preseason is full of ripe competition. The battle for roster spots comprises many factors,,,, including player status, talent, hard work, and, obviously, performance. Every year, teams have players fighting for their chance to show what they can do at the highest level, and the Nashville Predators are no different.
Philip Tomasino was sent down to the AHL as the final roster cut before the 2022-23 season gets underway for the Predators on Thursday at home against the Dallas Stars. The young and talented forward was waiver-exempt, which could have played a factor in the final decision, but to many, it is a bit confusing.
The young Canadian played 76 games with the Predators last season, scoring 32 points which ranked 13th among all rookies. His defense was some of the best on the team,, with his offensive impacting coming in around average, and looking at the kind of linemates he had on the fourth line for the most part—Michael McCarron and Nick Cousins—it's hard to blame him for his output.
With the news of the youngster being sent down, the internet (myself included) was quick to judge the decision, and there are plenty of ways to approach this. If Tomasino didn't earn the position, why should he have it? It teaches him the idea that there are no guaranteed things in the NHL, and talent alone won't win anyone over. Hard work is more important. Yes, the 21-year-old may be one of the more talented forward prospects that the Predators have had in a while, but if he thinks he's above working hard, then sending him down will undoubtedly send him a message.
However, something doesn't make sense about demoting a player that proved he could play at the NHL level. After playing most of his time with Nick Cousins and Michael McCarron (not the most talented two players in the world) and showing that he can play at least average offense and solid defense. By the end of the season, it was thought that he would get a shot at the top six. He did not, at least not for a prolonged time.
Even in the preseason games, it didn't feel like Tomasino was given much of a shot to prove himself in meaningful competition. In the chances he did get, he wasn't incredibly noticeable, which is why the Predators' brass made the decision they did. But something as important as a roster spot being decided by some subpar performances in the preseason does not sit well with me, especially when we know that the Predators are better with Tomasino in the lineup.
There have been comparisons made by both fans on Twitter and even John Hynes regarding Tomasino and Cody Glass, which in some regards is fair, but in most, it's not. Glass has not had a full NHL season and was sent down primarily to help him get used to professional hockey after significant injuries. Tomasino has had a full NHL season, and he was in contention for a top six roster spot. So on a fundamental level, the comparison falls apart. Obviously the comparison is drawn because of the kind of effect Milwaukee Admirals head coach Karl Taylor had on Glass and his overall game and competitiveness. But as far as current individual situations go, they are not the same.
The most important question is, what does Tomasino still have to prove against AHL talent? Did he have the best preseason? No. But as far as improving his game goes, playing against inferior competition is not going to do that. There are ways to refine your game in the AHL, but the improvement will come against guys who are bigger and stronger than him. Playing defense (among other things) against AHL players is not the same as NHLers, which is why it is a bit confusing if their end goal is to make him a much better player.
There is no doubt that the organization values Tomasino as a player. They want to do what they believe is best for him. He will be back in the NHL in no time, but people have the right to question the decision, especially given the Predators’ track record with drafting and developing forwards. He will be back, but only time will tell.