The big Predators news on Monday was the announcement that Philip Tomasino would be starting the season with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. Fans were already dealing with the news that the Arizona Coyotes grabbed goaltender Connor Ingram from waivers when this news hit. Of course, after Tomasino did not play in any of the games during the Global Series, talk had started that this might be a potential move before the team made final cuts.

Alex Daugherty and I had a chance to air our initial reactions to the news as we were recording our latest episode of the “On The Preds” Podcast:

Preds Head Coach John Hynes took the time to explain the Tomasino decision after practice on Tuesday:

Based on what Hynes said, this decision comes down to two main things:

Tomasino’s play without the puck

Whenever John Hynes makes a reference to what a player does “without the puck”, he’s talking about defense. Tomasino is a forward and forwards should create offense, but it’s easy to forget that top-six forwards are typically on the ice against their opponent’s top-six forwards and their job is also to create offense. Therefore, what Tomasino does “without the puck” is rather important as he needs to be able to defend when the puck changes hands.

During the COVID-abbreviated season, Eeli Tolvanen (another highly-touted forward) had been playing in Milwaukee after an underwhelming post-season debut in Nashville. Karl Taylor, head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, focused on developing Tolvanen into a complete player, not just an offensive powerhouse. Then, when the need arose, Tolvanen was called up to Nashville and has held onto a roster spot ever since. Of course, when asked, John Hynes explained how Tolvanen earned his spot on the team: β€œIt’s funny how things transpire because when he came in everyone was offense, offense, offense, but for a young player to come into the league, the reason he got into the lineup originally was because of his play without the puck and his competitiveness. Then he gets in and starts to find his way, he continues to find his way and continues to get opportunities to play because he’s responsible without the puck.”

Just like Hynes never doubted Tolvanen’s offensive abilities, he also has no doubts about Tomasino’s. The question, however, is how to round out his game with defense. That’s where Karl Taylor comes in.

Finding minutes

Hynes also mentioned needing to “find minutes” for Tomasino. The expectation is for Tomasino to play in the top six. More than likely, that means opposite Nino Niederreiter on Ryan Johansen’s second line. Without strong defensive play, it would be irresponsible to put Tomasino into that situation. The third line is already locked down with Yakov Trenin, Tanner Jeannot, and Colton Sissons. This would relegate him to playing on the 4th line for the Predators. The 4th line plays considerably less than the other three lines and is typically known for defensive play. If the Predators want Tomasino to develop defensively, he needs more minutes and he needs to play those minutes in an environment that will allow him to continue with his offensive focus.

Sending Tomasino to Milwaukee accomplishes both of these goals. First, he’d be able to get top-six minutes in Milwaukee while developing defensively under the tutelage of Karl Taylor. Hynes also mentions the power play. More than likely, Tomasino would be a key member of the first power play unit and would see a lot more time in that situation in Milwaukee than he would in Nashville. While it may seem like a big step back for Tomasino, the move actually allows him the time he needs in order to develop those critical skills. Once that happens, he’ll be back in Nashville and ready for the spotlight.

–featured image via Steve Roberts/USA TODAY Sports–