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Milwaukee Admirals

Philip Tomasino’s Future May Hinge On Calder Cup Playoff Performance

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Tomasino
Photo of Philip Tomasino, left, courtesy of the Milwaukee Admirals

Philip Tomasino knew the journey all too well.

When the Nashville Predators sent him to the Milwaukee Admirals on Feb. 12, it was the ninth time Tomasino had been reassigned to the AHL during his three-year tenure with the Predators organization.

It wasn’t that Tomasino was demoted because he was out of his element in the NHL.

Head coach Andrew Brunette and general manager Barry Trotz felt he was simply struggling to grasp the “structures and details” of Brunette’s new fast-paced, up-tempo system and determined he’d be better served getting regular playing time in a top-six role in Milwaukee instead of being healthy scratched 11 times in 52 games.

“He went down with a really mature attitude and he wants to be a big part of this,” Trotz said. “I think sometimes the struggle is they want it so quickly and they’re looking to try to get there quicker, and I think he’s in a good place right now.”

Added Brunette: “Up here, we talked about it midseason where we felt for his development to have an opportunity to be the type of player we believe he can be, he needs a little bit more — he needed more ice time, he needed a bigger role, he had to grow a little bit both on and off the ice.”

There were moments this season — however brief — that Tomasino showed flashes of a player befitting of a spot on the NHL’s top 75 prospects list.

At the time of his demotion, Tomasino was third on the Predators in game-winning goals (2), fourth in goals above expected (0.8), fifth in even-strength goals (7) and points per 60 (2.33), and eighth in points (20).

But offensive numbers aside, Brunette said Tomasino was plagued by the little things, stating he didn’t feel comfortable or confident playing Tomasino late in games that were close.

The first-year head coach admitted most of Tomasino’s shortcomings could be worked out in the AHL, and the time in Milwaukee seemed to do him some good. Tomasino was a near point-per-game player, logging 11 goals and 18 points in 22 regular-season games, and above all, he appears to have found his confidence.

“He’s been a really big part of becoming the go-to guy, which is really important for him because I think he’s got a good skillset, he’s putting the value in every game, on every shift and working toward that,” Trotz said.

But just because things seem to have clicked for Tomasino with the Admirals, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee him a spot with the Predators next season.

The 22-year-old’s offensive prowess was never in question. His 0.49 points per game was sixth-best on the team this season, and he’s totaled the sixth-most shots on goal over the last three seasons (227).

But it’s what the former first-round pick does without the puck (and when he’s not on the ice) that Brunette wants to see significant growth in before he’s comfortable slotting him back into the lineup, challenging Tomasino to fight his way back to the NHL.

“For me, I think he needs to grab the identity that we’ve created here, and he has to have a little bit more of that in him,” Brunette said. “If he can, and he puts the work in, and he’s relentless, then his skill will take over. But if he [plays like he did] at different times this year where he wanted the skill first without the work, I’m not sure he has a chance to play for us next year.”

Brunette and Trotz were both in agreement that Tomasino’s performance during the Calder Cup Playoffs could go a long way toward determining his playing future in 2024.

The Admirals and Texas Stars are tied 2-2 in their best-of-five series in the Central Division semifinals. In those games, Tomasino is tied for the team lead with three goals — one of which came on the power play — and his 11 shots on goal are also tied for most on the team.

The winner-take-all Game 5 is set for Sunday in Milwaukee.

“This playoff run will be really critical for his career and I hope he rises to the moment, and I believe he will,” Brunette remarked.

“I’m hoping that he has a really long run [in the AHL playoffs] because there’s nothing better for development than going deep [into the postseason] in any league,” Trotz added. “If he can be the guy, just like Luke Evangelista was last year, then you’re going to get a good player back.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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