Philip Tomasino: A New Benchmark in Nashville

A look at how Nashville’s prized prospect stacks up against his peers.

When the youth movement finally came to Nashville last season, it was led by some unexpected players like Tanner Jeannot and Mathieu Olivier. And despite the Predators litany of injuries, Philip Tomasino—the organization’s most exciting prospect—didn’t see the ice for an NHL game.

There’s long been an odd perception around the league about rushing prospects into NHL service, but it’s a debate that comes without a finite rule of thumb and one that can be heavily skewed by confirmation bias. Nashville has a reputation of being overly cautious with prospects, yet public comment would indicate that it’s past time Tomasino be an NHL regular.

So why is it that now, a mere two seasons removed from being drafted (a relatively short timeframe), Philip Tomasino is creating these expectations? Is the hype around his matriculation to the NHL warranted and if so, is his development generating enough buzz?

Below I conducted a quick, non-exhaustive exercise in just how far his offensive development has come.

Analyzing the 2019 NHL Entry Draft

When Nashville selected him at 24th overall, Philip Tomasino became the first forward taken from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. In his draft year, Tomasino finished fourth in OHL scoring among first-time draft-eligible forwards. Using Patrick Bacon’s excellent NHLe data, I compared 11 of those OHL forwards with the highest NHLe rates in the 2018-19 season:

As these prospects played their draft-year-plus-one (DY+1) season in the OHL, Tomasino’s NHLe improved from 12.41 to 19.05—remaining near the middle of the pack. But his peers, particularly Connor McMichael, Jan Jenik, and Nicholas Robertson, progressed too.

In 2021, this group found themselves unexpectedly playing in the American Hockey League (AHL), and as 19-year olds, it was Tomasino and Tyler Angle who were best able to adjust to pro hockey. It was this year with the Chicago Wolves that truly showcased Tomasino’s potential as he best (almost) all of his peers with a 32.06 NHLe. Even his 100-point DY+1 season in the OHL could not separate him from the group as 2021 did.

When comparing the change in these prospects’ NHLe rates over the past two years, Tomasino has displayed some steady progression in his scoring touch, but it’s notable just how much of that improvement happened last year in the AHL.

Analyzing Nashville’s First-Round Picks

Last week, I posted a question on Twitter regarding Nashville’s history of first-round picks. From 2005 to 2019, the Predators selected five forwards in the first round, and I wanted to know who you thought had the highest potential on draft day: Colin Wilson, Austin Watson, Kevin Fiala, Eeli Tolvanen, or Philip Tomasino?

Your answers covered a variety of biases. Older fans often noted Wilson, Fiala was picked due to how high his selection was, younger fans said Tolvanen, and recency bias influenced many to say Tomasino (fortunately not one person said Austin Watson).

I was curious to get a better picture of what the answer could be, so I did the same comparison conducted above but using only Nashville’s selections:

Some of the most notable takeaways include:

  • Fiala and Wilson are neck-and-neck for the highest DY NHLe,
  • Tomasino is above only Austin Watson in DY NHLe,
  • DY+1 seasons give us similar results aside from Tolvanen’s explosive year in the KHL, and
  • In his DY+2 season is where Tomasino stands out./

Outside of Colin Wilson’s dynamic and oft-forgotten early years, you could make the argument that Philip Tomasino has developed the best, offensively, in his first two post-draft seasons among Nashville’s first-round forward prospects.

In fact, of the nine total forwards Nashville has taken in round one from 1998 to 2019, only three have recorded an NHLe rating in their DY+2 season over 30.0 points: Colin Wilson at 30.88, Philip Tomasino at 32.06, and Scott Hartnell at 41.0 (Hartnell was already a full-time NHL player that season).

Note: I chose to exclude players taken before the 2004-05 lockout for various reasons. For your curiosity, I’ve included that historical data below:

PlayerDraftedLeagueDY NHLeDY+1 NHLeDY+2 NHLe
Philip Tomasino2019OHL12.4119.0532.06
Eeli Tolvanen2017USHL13.2144.6418.55
Kevin Fiala2014SuperElit16.8123.7023.64
Austin Watson2010OHL10.7511.0014.95
Colin Wilson2008NCAA16.5221.8930.88
Alexander Radulov2004VHL19.8510.6922.72
Scottie Upshall2002WHL15.7315.4224.70
Scott Hartnell2000WHL15.2916.0041.00
David Legwand1998OHL21.0117.1828.00

If you compare Philip Tomasino’s NHLe delta over the past three seasons to this set of Nashville draft picks, it’s again clear that Tomasino’s AHL season was something special in the course of the organization’s history. His offensive production, combined with maturity and improvements off the puck, demonstrate that the hype behind the 2019 first-round pick is legitimate and could possibly be undersold.

Among this post-lockout group, only Colin Wilson made it to the NHL full-time in his DY+3 season, scoring 34 points in 82 games. Philip Tomasino has done all he can to follow in those footsteps, and given these league-adjusted scoring rates, it’s reasonable to suggest he’s the organization's best chance to date at developing a star forward.

Note: Analyzing NHLe is by no means meant to encompass all developmental factors, but it can be a useful tool when projecting NHL impact on the offensive side of the puck.

All statistics are courtesy of; NHLe data is courtesy of Patrick Bacon; full data visualizations can be found here.