Phil Tomasino Is Going To Be Just Fine

It’s not the result fans wanted, but Tomasino starting in Milwaukee doesn’t have much downside.

The Nashville Predators have finalized their 23-man roster for Thursday’s home opener against the Dallas Stars. The list is packed with the culminations of several feel-good stories from Preds’ camp, such as Kiefer Sherwood’s sudden rise or Cody Glass’s emotional battle back to the NHL roster. However, a lot of the talk has focused on one of the names not on the roster.

Phil Tomasino will start the season with the Milwaukee Admirals. It’s a development that would have seemed surprising just a couple of weeks ago. Tomasino appeared destined to start the year as the Preds’ second line winger. But after being healthy scratched for the entirety of the NHL Global Series, a reassignment to the AHL seemed less like a possibility and more like an inevitability.

It’s easy for fans to be frustrated by this move. After all, Tomasino — as a 20 year old — quietly put together a respectable 32-point rookie season, the sixth best point total for a rookie in Predators history, and nearly double what future stars Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson had in their first full seasons with the team. What was more impressive is he did it from the Preds’ fourth line, so the thought of Tomasino’s offensive prowess being used with Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter instead of Michael McCarron and Matt Luff made fans giddy.

However, you have to look at this with a “more than one thing can be true” perspective. It’s fairly obvious that out of all the players battling for a final roster spot, Tomasino has the most upside, especially offensively. At the same time, the other players quite simply did more this preseason to earn a roster spot than Tomasino did.

And you know what? That’s fine.

Tomasino is 21 years old entering his third professional season. His game is nowhere near its finished product. There’s also not a need to push him into a high-profile role he’s not quite ready for.

Instead of a “trial by fire” packed with growing pains, Tomasino is going to Milwaukee under the tutelage of Karl Taylor, a coach who’s earned a reputation of helping players develop a more NHL-ready game. Tomasino will play consistent top-line minutes in an environment where he’ll have a longer leash to make mistakes. There aren’t many downsides in that scenario.

It’s easy to get caught up in the optics of a prized offensive prospect like Tomasino losing a roster spot to a player like Cole Smith or Zach Sanford, players with shorter-term futures for the Preds. But the Preds have the luxury of playing the long-game with Tomasino. Being sent to Milwaukee shouldn’t change the Predators’ long-term opinion of him, nor should it be a reason for concern about “fit” or “identity.” It’s a simply a sign that he’s not quite where the Predators need him to be right now.

He’s going to get another opportunity to earn a spot in the Preds’ top six. Who knows? That opportunity may come sooner rather than later. And when it does, he may be in a better position to lock down that role for good.