The Oshawa Generals hope to add to their CHL-leading five Memorial Cup titles this season.
One of two OHL finalists bidding to host the 2021 Memorial Cup Presented by Kia, the Generals were found at number three in the pre-season edition of the Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings.
Oshawa has headline talent like 2019 Nashville Predators first-round pick Philip Tomasino. The budding centre transformed the team’s offensive identity last season following his early January addition from the Niagara IceDogs, making an immediate impression with a two-goal, three-assist debut – one of two five-point outings in his first month with his new team – that by season’s end totaled 18 goals and 25 assists through 26 appearances.
Tomasino was quick to credit his Generals teammates for his ability to quickly transition and find early success in his new surroundings, telling the Ontario Hockey League, “I think everyone in Oshawa made it really easy for me. A lot of credit to the Gens staff, all the coaches and managers, for making it easier for me. It was definitely a unique situation. I was always used to being with the same guys, same coaches, so it was a little difficult but overall it was a great fit for me for sure.”
In all, Tomasino wrapped up 2019-20 with 100 points, good for a fourth-place finish in OHL scoring and one of only six players from coast-to-coast to hit the century mark.
The 19-year-old has an opportunity to turn pro with the Predators next season – and undoubtedly has a better idea of what is expected to make it to the highest level after being a part of the team’s Return to Play Roster for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
“The biggest thing is just seeing how hard they work and how hard they compete against each other. I’ve realized it’s a big step from juniors to pro in that sense,” Tomasino added. “Just to see how smart those guys are and how skilled and how fast and how big they are, it’s pretty awesome that I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to skate with them and learn from them, and it was a lot of fun.”
Still, a return to the Generals for further development could potentially include a few extra opportunities. Not only may he have the chance to compete in the league’s prestigious national championship, but the Mississauga, Ont., native, who has twice represented the Great White North on the international stage, is also a prime candidate for the 2021 World Juniors on Canadian soil after he was among 39 CHLers to take part in this summer’s virtual National Junior Team Development Camp.
With the Generals, Tomasino will be looked toward to drive the team offensively, particularly following offseason turnover highlighted by the graduations of Brett Neumann, who pushed the scoring pace last season with a team-leading 83 points, as well as captain Kyle MacLean, who finished fourth in team scoring and just short of point-per-game production with 13 goals and 33 assists in 51 games. Both players were key cogs in helping the 2019-20 squad to a 31-win, 73-point showing and a third-place standing in the OHL’s Eastern Conference when the season came to a halt.
Third-year pivot Tyler Tullio, a fifth-round selection by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2020 NHL Draft, should be able to help make up for some of the lost offense having finished fourth in team scoring last season and primed to build upon that success in 2020-21. One year after choosing Tullio in the first round of the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, the club added another dynamic forward in 2019 with centre Brett Harrison. The now 17-year-old looks to take another step as a sophomore following an impressive first season that counted 21 goals outpaced by only two freshmen league-wide and the most by an Oshawa rookie since John Tavares potted 45 markers in 2005-06. The Generals could also return 2002-born Finnish right-wing Oliver Suni who despite an injury-shortened season amassed 32 points in 43 contests and would be playing with something to prove after being overlooked at the NHL Draft.
While much of the focus on the Generals will be on the forward ranks, the skill showcase continues on the back end with another pair of former first round OHL picks. 19-year-old Mitchell Brewer provides stability and will consume more challenging minutes, while 18-year-old Lleyton Moore climbs the depth chart and can be counted on in a larger capacity with a chip on his shoulder after not being picked in the NHL Draft.
One of the more intriguing situations the Generals face ahead of the 2020-21 season is with their overage candidates that count three in particular on the roster who went unsigned after 2018 NHL Draft selection. Forward Allan McShane (Montreal Canadiens), defenceman Giovanni Vallati (Winnipeg Jets), and goaltender Jordan Kooy (Vegas Golden Knights) not only cover all three positions but could provide the kind of talent and veteran experience it takes to win a championship.
And while it remains to be determined whether or not the Generals will get their championship chance on home ice in June, they will most certainly be in the mix for a sixth Memorial Cup.