It's unclear what the 2020-21 NHL season may look like - or when it might start - but Philip Tomasino would like a chance to participate.
Arguably the top prospect in the Nashville system, the Predators selected the now-18-year-old forward in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. All Tomasino did in his first season as a member of the Preds organization was post 40 goals and 100 points in 62 games split between Niagara and Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League.
Those notable numbers were more than enough to keep the attention of the Preds, and Nashville Assistant General Manager Jeff Kealty said back in April that while the organization will always do what's best for the player's development, he wouldn't be surprised to see Tomasino compete for a roster spot at training camp.
Tomasino was not only honored to hear those remarks - he fully intends on making them a reality.
"My goal is to make the NHL and make the Nashville lineup next year, and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen," Tomasino said Monday via video conference. "It's going to be a little different summer in terms of training and stuff like that, but come camp time, I'm going to be ready… If it doesn't [happen], it's not the end of the world. I can go back to juniors, but like I said, right now the focus is to make Nashville and be a part of the Predators lineup next year."
There's a difference between saying so and doing so, of course, but Tomasino just might be able to make it happen. Very few teenagers play in the NHL - Tomasino would be 19 next season - and it often takes at least a couple of campaigns to develop before many prospects turn pro.
If the Predators determine Tomasino does need more time to round out his game, he would head back to the OHL, as opposed to the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals due to transfer agreements. He wouldn't be opposed to doing so if necessary, however, especially considering the success he found with Oshawa.
Tomasino joined the Generals after a midseason trade from the IceDogs, the first time he had ever experienced a situation that required him to switch clubs in such a setting. He didn't waste any time making an impression either. A five-point outing on his first night with the Generals led to 18 goals and 43 points in just 26 contests with his new club.
"It was new to me, but it's nice to have that experience and know what it's like to be on a new team and be traded," Tomasino said. "A lot of credit to the staff and the players on Oshawa for helping me adjust so quickly and always being there for me from the start. They made my transition really easy, a lot easier than I expected."
Like every other hockey league in North America, the OHL went on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early March. Eventually, the OHL, which is part of the Canadian Hockey League, saw the remainder of the season canceled, forcing Tomasino into an offseason earlier than he'd ever experienced.
But while the Mississauga, Ontario, native was in the midst of the best statistical season of his young career, he was also receiving plenty of feedback from his NHL club. Tomasino lists Predators Director of Player Development Scott Nichol and Forward Development Coach Sebastian Bordeleau as two voices who were in constant communication over the past several months to help the skilled centerman become better.
"They're always there for me," Tomasino said. "The development coaches came to a few games throughout the year, and it was nice to have that feedback. I hadn't really had that the last few years, but it was nice to have someone there watching your game and helping you get better and critique your game a little bit. It was great for me, and I learned a lot. I want to credit the organization for helping me out."
Still, it takes elite talent to put up 100 points in one of the top junior leagues in the world, and there's no denying Tomasino's potential is something to be excited about.
He says he models his game after New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal - one of Predators defenseman Dante Fabbro's best friends, and one of the top forwards in the NHL. No one would complain if Tomasino could one day put up numbers like those that come off the stick of Barzal on Long Island.
And while Tomasino may have to wait until his 20s to do just that, perhaps it won't take that long. Because for all the unknowns right now, this much is certain - the Predators like the quiet confidence shown by a fresh-faced forward from the Toronto suburbs.
"I'll be ready to go [when training camp starts] and compete for a spot," Tomasino said. "That's my goal, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that that's a possibility."