When Philip Tomasino first arrived in Red Deer, he knew he’d be joining other players of his caliber. Now, in the first bout of scrimmages, he’s seeing that talent pour out in masses. On Sunday, that exact thing took place in the second of three contests between Team Red and Team White. Following a 4-1 victory on Saturday, Team White was prepared to wreck more havoc offensively.
Having had Saturday to adjust, some also saw increased ice time while providing a larger sample size. Among this list was Taylor Gauthier, London backstop Brett Brochu, Shane Wright and Donovan Sebrango. As well, head coach Andre Tourigny swapped benches with Mitch Love from Team Red to Team White.
Now knowing what to expect, the teams entered Westerner Park Centrium prepared for a rematch while showcasing their abilities. Early on, some were stronger than others, but the skill level showed on both ends of the ice. Seeing efforts climb through the evening, this wouldn’t make picking any easier for management.
Given the high volume of talent picked by Jason Labarbera, coach Tourigny and company, the game remained as very one sided from the moment the puck dropped until late in the third. Getting on the board quick and early, it was Kirby Dach who would open the scoring, rebounding a point shot from Braden Schneider.
Doing so amid a clump of traffic, Dach would poke it by Gauthier to put Team White up 1-0. Sending the puck up to the defensemen, Tomasino would be credited with the secondary assist. This would be only the start for a night that soon turned into Tomasino’s favour.
Looking ahead to the second, following a failed breakaway from Connor McMichael, it was the former first-round pick that would get on the board with a goal of his own. Following a spin pass from Kirby Dach, the Canadian centreman would bank the rebound past Gauthier. With a jolt of life keeping them going, that would see Team White’s lead double, now up 2-0.
That wasn’t all for the forward, as following a goal off the stick of Jamieson Rees, Team White would counter right back, now going up 3-1. They did so as Kirby Dach scored his second of the night just 31 seconds later. Continuing an impressive trend, Tomasino would assist, this also being his third point. Sending the puck up to Connor Zary, the tone would be set from there as the duo set up the centreman.
For the righty, the 6-3 final in Red Deer was the icing on the cake in his first bout with the National Team. Fighting for a spot like all others, the Nashville Predators draft pick had it coming for quite some time. Putting up stellar numbers consecutively, the righty worked for the invite, given nothing comes easily.
Entering the Ontario Hockey League in 2017-18 with the Niagara IceDogs, the Ontario native played 61 games, only scoring five goals along with 19 assists. While that made for 24 points, it was only the drawing board for what was to come. In 2018-19, he played 67 games, recording 34 goals along with 38 assists. That saw him tally a career high of 72 points.
As if that wasn’t enough, his 2019-20 season was even better. While shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, he would make his mark known, just like he had the season prior. Opening the season at Meridian Centre, the 19-year-old played 36 games, scoring 22 goals along with 35 assists. That would make for a total of 57 points.
Onwards to the OHL deadline, Tomasino was traded to the Oshawa Generals in exchange for nine draft picks and David Guicciardi. Completing the latter portion in Durham, this would only allow for his offence to continue. Through 26 games, he’d tally 43 points, having scored 18 goals along with 25 assists.
Between them, he amassed 100 points, racking up 40 goals along with 60 assists. Even in the face of adversity and a midseason deal, he put up record statistics. That’s what stood out most to Tourigny, the head coach for Team Canada, hence extending him an invite.
Putting on a show two games in, he knows what needs to continue to ensure him a roster spot. Part of that is keeping the lines open, a significant contributor as it pertains to forming chemistry. Speaking further to this on Sunday, the 2001 birthday told the media postgame, “It’s a lot easier. The biggest thing is communication. Playing with older guys this year, you are a bit quieter and listening to them.”
In this case, the Mississauga native is playing on a line with two guys his own age. With high praise for the skillset of Dach, he said while sitting beside him of what stands out the most, “Just the way he’s so smart with the puck, and you know, uses his body so well, so he’s definitely an easy guy to play with, and you know, tonight, I thought he had a pretty good night overall, so hopefully we’ll have to continue to build on this and I’m looking forward to the rest of the camp here.”
Getting to play with someone of his skillset, Dach then said in response to what he sees in Tomasino, “He knows where to put pucks. He’s fast and has a ton of skill. Nashville sees something in him…he will be a great pro.”
The last time Tomasino played hockey, he was skating with Nashville in the NHL bubble. Surrounded by men twice his age, he understands the divide between junior and professional. Discussing that experience in greater detail, he said of the lessons taught and what he took away, “Obviously, what it takes to play against that level. Little details and off ice habits. It helped my confidence.”
Being among the youngest in the room, Tomasino was mentored by Canadian Ryan Ellis. As they lived together last year during Predators camp, he said of the discussions the two had on the World Juniors, “He’s played in this tournament three times. He’s a great mentor. He said to play your game and be confident in yourself.”
And so far, so good at Selection Camp. On the part of head coach Andre Tourigny, he said of what he liked from Tomasino and his linemates, “Dach had a great game and so did Phil as well. He has the offensive instinct to be in the right place at the right time. It was a pretty good line.”
As they look to stick together moving forward, they have one more split-squad game together on Tuesday. Knowing this is part of the journey, the third game on the schedule starts at 10:00amMT. The scrimmage between Team Red and Team White be will carried LIVE on HockeyCanada.ca. Following that, there will be three practices before taking on U SPORTS to close the month with a showdown.
For those who are based on the east coast, that’s 12:00pmET on Tuesday for the intra-squad game. Andre Tourigny and a couple of players will be made available to speak post-game on Tuesday.