Philip Tomasino has never been to Nashville, but he won't have to wait much longer for his first visit.
The first-round pick of the Predators at the 2019 NHL Draft, along with a number of his fellow draftees and many of the organization's top prospects, will descend on Middle Tennessee for the next week as the Preds host their annual development camp.
The festivities begin on Tuesday with orientations and off-ice testing in the morning, followed by the first on-ice practice for the group later that afternoon at Centennial Sportsplex. From there, the rookies will experience everything from nutrition seminars, team-building activities and community visits before the week culminates with the Future Stars Game, presented by BlueCross BlueShield, on Saturday evening at Ford Ice Center Antioch.
The annual camp is a key element in the - for lack of a better term - development of the next wave of Preds, and whether you're a veteran of the summertime affair or it's your first time on the ice with a Gold jersey, there is plenty to gain.
"You get these kids that were just drafted right up with the guys who just played their first year of pro, so it's really good to get them all together," Predators Assistant General Manager Jeff Kealty said. "You see the camaraderie and chemistry build over the course of the week, and they get to meet our coaches, use our facilities, see the city a bit, and it's a huge part of our development and building that foundation for the future."
That future will have the chance to learn from players like Dante Fabbro, Eeli Tolvanen and Rem Pitlick, all of whom saw NHL time with the Preds last season. The trio is scheduled to be in attendance this week as well, and for Fabbro who will be attending his fourth development camp, the opportunity to take on a leadership role of sorts is attractive.
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"Every year how I've approached it was just going there to work as hard as I can," Fabbro said. "If I can do the same thing this year, maybe have more of a leadership attitude to it as well, I think that's good. Anyone that comes to the camp, they're all great people and easy to get along with, so it's been a lot of fun for me to attend those camps and meet all the prospects and whatnot. I'm pretty excited to get back to Nashville for a little bit and see some familiar faces."
For the younger attendees like Tomasino, this will be his first time in an NHL facility under the watchful eyes of Predators brass, and the 17-year-old is ready to play the role of student.
"Just to see how everything works, just getting a chance to see what the professionals do and how they conduct themselves, I think that's going to be a big lesson for me to see what they do," Tomasino said. "I think I'm going to learn a lot"
Not only is the week incredibly beneficial to participants, coaches and managers alike, it also gives Predators fans a chance to see the players whose jerseys they might be sporting one day.
Plus, who doesn't want to get their hockey fix in late June?
"You can look at our team we have in Nashville and say, 'I remember when Roman Josi came to his first development camp,'" Kealty said. "Now, you see where they are, and these kids that we just drafted, they're the future for us, so hopefully they'll be in the NHL in a few years."