Philip Tomasino’s production with the Niagara IceDogs exploded this year. Even with a slow start to the season where he only picked up six points in 11 games, he finished with triple the numbers from his first year in the OHL, going from 24 points in 65 games in 2017-18 to 72 in 67 games in 2018-19.
With the NHL draft right around the corner, Tomasino caught the attention of the hockey world at just the right time.
Birthplace: Mississauga, ON, Canada
Weight: 181 lbs.
Team: Niagara IceDogs
His status as one of the younger players in the draft (a July birthday) combined with his recent increase in production makes him a riser in this 2019 class, something organizations like to target.
What also plays in Tomasino’s favour is that he is a complete player. His versatility allowed him to play centre, though he spent most of the season on the right wing.
In the often free-flowing Junior hockey game, he starts and stops in the defensive zone where he is needed, hunts the puck when his team loses possession, and understands how to get it back. He uses his body first and foremost, preventing opponents’ access to the puck to the best of his ability by sealing it away before skating it out of the scrum. Once he matures physically (Tomasino is rarely the biggest player on the ice), he should become even more effective at winning races and possession.
The right-handed forward is already a solid skater. He could unlock even more speed by working on his form and accentuating his knee bend, but with the use of a multitude of crossovers he can still beat defenders wide or pierce straight through the line of defence when given the occasion. He is also quick to accelerate, which helps him get open, especially around the net.
Skating is the foundation of Tomasino’s game. He likes to play at high speed in offensive situations where his ability to process the game faster than most gives him an advantage. Like in the sequence above, where he attacks the defender head on and crosses wide to pull him out of position. As soon as he sees that defender initiate his pivot, he cuts back inside, sliding the puck out of the reach of the opposing stick and then behind him to a supporting forward in a shooting position.
He likes to challenge opponents one-on-one. He knows he is a superior stickhandler to most of his opposition and doesn’t hesitate to handle the puck close to defenders off the rush, baiting them into pokechecks. He looks for any opening that could be given to him.
Here, he doesn’t immediately rush wide, which would have closed the lane, but instead attacks through the middle. This choice forces the defence to back off slightly to give Tomasino room inside the offensive blue line. After breaking in, the forward also successively uses a couple of slight weight-shifts to his left, faking that he wants to continue attacking inside, and dragging the defence that way. Once he gains enough space, he shifts wide, extending his reach to protect the puck.
Those purposeful movements allowed him to not be forced along the wall on the offensive zone and gave him access to the area below the goal line, all while attracting two defenders to him. The puck he slid in front could have easily ended up in the back of the net if it wasn’t missed by his teammates.
He is also deceptive. He uses head and body fakes and masks his intentions off the rush very well. If he has friendly options around him while attacking with speed, he can just as well use the threat of a pass to unexpectedly fire on net and beat the goalie. Or he’ll do the opposite: line-up his shoulders and stick toward the net, but use the curve of his stick to thread the puck across, giving a teammate an empty net to shoot at.
Tomasino split his production in almost equal parts goals and assists this season, and that also helped him keep opponents guessing as to what he plans to do with the puck on his stick.
Tomasino’s dual-threat ability was also reflected in his tracked stats. He scored near the top of the sample in both expected goals per 60 minutes, and expected primary assists. The forward also showed himself to be a good contributor off the puck, especially on the forecheck. He is a player who hits all the right notes on his shifts. He supports his teammates well, which in turn gives him offensive chances.
With most of the IceDogs’ core graduating to professional hockey next season — players like Akil Thomas and the recently acquired Jack Studnicka and Jason Robertson — Tomasino will have a much bigger role for the team.
Late in the season, he was placed on the second line and wasn’t getting first power-play time. This will all change in 2019-20. He won’t have the same supporting cast, but the increased minutes should help him improve on his draft-year production. A move back to centre could also be in the cards for him, and seems likely when considering that Thomas and Studnicka were the two top pivots of the team this year.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Elite Prospects: #31
Future Considerations: #27
Hockey Prospect: #30
ISS Hockey: #19
NHL Central Scouting: #14 (NA Skaters)
Tomasino is ranked mostly at the end of the first round by scouting services, but not unlike Ty Dellandrea last year, the forward could easily jump up to the middle of the first round. He already plays an NHL-calibre game, with speed at the centre of it, and is a positionally versatile right-handed shot. He should represent a very attractive target for many organizations.