Since Day 1 of Predators Training Camp, Philip Tomasino has had a quiet confidence about him.
Combined with his happy-go-lucky personality fit perfectly for a 20-year-old trying to make an NHL roster, Tomasino wasn't sweating things on Monday afternoon when he was asked if he had made the team.
The forward said he hadn't been told yet one way or the other, but he wasn't going to spend the rest of the day pacing around his Nashville hotel room. Instead, he suggested a call to his parents or some PGA video games might be on the docket.
But on Tuesday morning, the Preds confirmed their final 23-man roster, and Tomasino's No. 26 was a part of it.
Surely, he flashed a smile or two - that's just how Tomasino is wired - but he's also aware that the real work is just beginning. There's still no telling whether he'll be in the Nashville lineup on Thursday night when the Predators host Seattle at Bridgestone Arena - one of the 13 forwards on the roster will need to be scratched - but Tomasino knows what got him here in the first place.
"I think the main thing for me is just playing my game and just focusing on that," Tomasino said Monday. "I think everything will take care of itself out of that, but for me, it's like I said before, [I'm] just trying to be the best player teammate I can be and be a guy that [Predators Head] Coach [John] Hynes can depend on in every situation. Whether that's the defensive zone, in the offensive zone, trying to score a goal, trying to defend, trying to win a faceoff - I want to be a complete player and give the team someone who they can rely on. So, I think overall it's been really fun, and I think we're going to continue to get better every day, for sure."
"Talking about Philip specifically, I don't see him right now as a top six [forward], maybe a six through nine player, where I think [the top six] meaning guys that are probably going to get hard matchups, the best top four defenseman, things like that," Hynes said of Tomasino. "I would say with Phil, that would probably be the right role for him. He has had a good camp, and he showed us that if he starts on the team that there's a good chance he's going to be able to play… I think it's really important that the young guys that want to get the opportunities, [but we want] to see them swim and not sink. They'll get some opportunities, and if it's going well and we try to give them good things, that's great, but if there's a stagnation or it's a little bit over the head, then it's probably in the best interest to go back and play in Milwaukee a bit and get confidence, get the game going… [The NHL], it's great to be here, but it's not a league to gain confidence, it's not a league to find yourself. You've got to be ready to go, so I think that's the approach that we'll take with these guys."
That approach will be utilized for a number of others in the organization, including those who were the final four players to receive assignments to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. Forward Egor Afanasyev and defenseman Jeremy Davies were sent to Milwaukee on Sunday, and forward Michael McCarron, plus goaltender Connor Ingram, joined the Admirals on Monday after they cleared waivers.
Those discussions, Hynes says, when a player is sent to the AHL aren't necessarily enjoyable, especially for the individual who will be packing his bags. However, that conversation can often end up playing a notable role in a players' career, whether or not they know it in the moment.
"I think it's about understanding [why the decision is being made]," Hynes said. One of the big things to do with anything in life, but with players [in this situation], is that you've got to control what you can control. So, if we're making a decision between, let's say the 5-6 [defensemen] and the 7-8 [defensemen], you could arguably say that all four can play, but it's also them understanding that we're going to need everybody… No one's ever happy when they're either the last cut or you're sitting a player out, or whatever it is, but I think it's just understanding why, what can they control - which is their response - and then, if there are particular things that they need to be able to do, then they have to be willing to be able to do those things."
Tomasino may find himself on the other end of one of those chats eventually, but for now, he'll be staying in Tennessee. Just over two years removed from hearing his name called by the Predators on the NHL Draft stage in Vancouver, he's now hoping to hear the same echo through his new home building in just about 48 hours or so.
"Hopefully I'll get a chance to be in the lineup Thursday night," Tomasino said. "I think I've definitely done my best, and obviously [everyone can always be better], including myself, but I think I've learned a lot of things, got a chance to be around the guys and it was an awesome experience for me. [Now], I'm looking forward to hopefully getting an opportunity come Thursday night."