Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Philip Tomasino admits he let the pressure of playing in his NHL Draft season weigh on him early this season.
But the 17-year-old forward with Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League has gotten help from a teammate who understands the process and has turned into a candidate to be selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft when it's held at Rogers Arena from June 21-22.
"At the start of the year I didn't start the way I wanted to," he said. "The first 15 games I honestly started a lot slower than expected for sure."
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Tomasino (6-foot, 178 pounds) had seven points (two goals, five assists) in his first 16 games.
But he said conversations with teammate Akil Thomas helped him rediscover his game. Thomas was selected in the second round (No. 51) of the 2018 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings.
"You have to ask people and talk to teammates who have been through struggles," Tomasino said. "Everyone goes through struggles like that, where you have ups and downs. You learn from it. You see what you can do better.
"Sometimes when things aren't going your way, no matter what you do you can't find it. When you find your groove, you find it a lot easier to get into the swing of things."
Thomas' goal has been to help Tomasino avoid some of the mistakes he made in his draft season.
"We probably have a conversation about something to do with the draft once a week," Thomas said. "I definitely try to help him as much as I can because I know last year was kind of a tough year for me in terms of just dealing with everything. We talk quite a bit.
"He's stayed positive. He deals with negative stuff really well. It's something I look up to him for that kind of stuff."
Tomasino's talks with Thomas certainly have helped. He's rebounded from his slow start to now lead the OHL with 11 game-winning goals, and he's fifth for Niagara with 62 points (32 goals, 30 assists) in 58 games.
"We have a very, very good team and we stacked up recently," Tomasino said, mentioning trades that brought in top forwards Jack Studnicka (Boston Bruins) and Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars). "I have more confidence with the puck and am being more calm and making more plays. I think obviously getting the chance to play with some great players, like Thomas and Robertson, guys like that. It's been fun."
The enjoyment has translated well for Tomasino, who is No. 24 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, on June 21-22.
Some of Thomas' advice, however, has been to ignore outside noise, including draft rankings.
"There's a bunch of rankings that come out and obviously you want to be as high as possible and a lot of different people have a lot of different perspectives and opinions," Thomas said. "There's a lot of things that don't really matter. And for a guy like me, I'd kind of get upset to the point where I had to lay off Twitter … I actually deleted it for a bit.
"The best way to deal with it is to not even deal with that stuff. He's doing a pretty good job with that."
Thomas is proud of how Tomasino has rebounded and played some of his best hockey as Niagara is getting ready for the playoffs, with nine points (five goals, four assists) in his past six games.
"He's been a lot more confident," Thomas said. "That's what I've seen the most. Now when he gets the puck he attacks the defenders and he has it in his mind that he's going to dominate the game. I think that is kind of the first time we've seen it. He's only a second-year guy.
"Last year he had a good year (24 points in 61 games), but everyone's first year is tough. Now I think he feels like he can dominate this league rather than just fit in. It's been evident. He's been scoring game-winning goals and big goals. He's been scoring a lot and really confident. It's really cool to see."
That success has helped alleviate some of the pressure Tomasino was feeling.
"Having more confidence, I think, knowing you can play with these guys and being a difference-maker, helps," he said. "The nerves got away from me and I kind of stopped focusing on the draft and focused on my game and it ended up working in my favor. It's been great."