The Predators were already high on Philip Tomasino and Egor Afanasyev well before they selected both players during the 2019 NHL Draft in June in Vancouver.
They became even bigger fans of the young forwards after seeing their skill on display in Nashville during summer development camp, rookie camp and a few days of training camp.
When the two teenagers went back to their respective junior teams in the Ontario Hockey League - Tomasino with the Niagara Ice Dogs, Afanasyev with the Windsor Spitfires - they both started to pile up the points.
Within a two-day span last month, the Preds put pen to paper with two of their most promising prospects.
Afanasyev inked his three-year, entry-level contract on Oct. 19, and Tomasino did the same two days later. Yes, they both slipped on a Predators sweater for the first time at the draft, but in a way, the deals made things officially official.
"I'm really excited. A little bit relieved as well just to finally get it done and out of the way," Tomasino said via phone in Niagara Falls. "It was awesome, and I'm thankful for the opportunity the Preds gave me."
"First of all, I'm humbled and blessed for the opportunity," Afanasyev said via phone from Windsor. "It's huge knowing that I'm truly a member of the Nashville Predators, and it's just even more motivation to work every day, so it's really great."
Tomasino and Afanasyev knew each other already prior to being picked by the Preds in June, but their friendship grew during their time spent together with the club over the summer at the various camps. They both reached out to each other following their respective deals and had a good laugh about the timing of everything too.
"He texted me, we talked a little bit after I signed, and two days later, he signs," Afanasyev said. "It's pretty cool being those young guys together and signing the contracts at the same time. It's an honor for sure."
The 18-year-old Tomasino was selected 24th overall in the first round of the 2019 Draft, and in his short time with the organization, he hasn't disappointed. The Mississauga, Ontario, native showed off his speed and skill in the 2019 NHL Prospects Showcase in Nashville, and he even scored in a preseason game for the Preds before being assigned to Niagara.
What did Tomasino learn over his time with the Preds thus far? Plenty.
"A ton, I think a lot especially off the ice with nutrition just the way the pros handle themselves whether it's before games or before practices," Tomasino said. "Just simple things like stretching and eating properly, I think those are the two things I've learned for sure and I've used that to my advantage during the season… To get a chance to compete against them, and see what it takes to get to the next level… it was awesome to go through all that experience, and I'm looking forward to going through it again next year."
Afanasyev also gained plenty from his time in Nashville, and just as every prospect in the system has access to Predators player development coaches, the 6-foot-4 Russian has been in constant contact with those who can help him improve his game.
"Some forward coaches, right now they're helping me from Nashville," Afanasyev said. "They're helping me with videos and analyzing my games, and I just want to work work work every day and get better."
Set to represent his country in the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series, Afanasyev has six goals and 14 points in 14 games with the Spitfires thus far, with three of those tallies coming on the power play.
Tomasino, who has 10 goals and 25 points in 18 games with the Ice Dogs - including a six-point outing earlier in the season - is leading his team in scoring and is tied for 10th in points across the OHL.
Like Afanasyev, Tomasino also hopes to play for his country on the international stage this December, and now that his deal with the Predators is signed, he can't help but envision the bright lights of the NHL too.
"My goal is to make Team Canada and play for them at the World Juniors as well, so I'm looking forward to hopefully going to camp there and get a chance to represent Canada," Tomasino said. "That would be a dream come true… Then head back to Preds camp with the mindset that I want to play for that team and I want to be a part of that team next year."