A Year Later, Nolan Patrick Has Come a Long Way
As another draft comes to an end, it’s easy to remember the spot the Flyers were in a year ago. After the surprise of the offseason moved the Flyers up to second overall in the draft, they were able to get a top prospect in the 2017 NHL Draft class.
That player was Nolan Patrick. It’s been quite a year for the Flyers forward from that whirlwind day that he first put on the Orange and Black.
Patrick was highly-regarded as the projected No. 1 pick in the 2017 Draft before injuries affected his performance in his draft year. Nico Hischier was a high riser in the draft and ultimately overtook Patrick for the top spot.
That was fine by the Flyers, who were able to nab Patrick with the second overall pick. From that day last June until now, Patrick has gone through quite the journey and while his rookie season wasn't the biggest success by the numbers, it was a year of overcoming adversity and tremendous growth, showing just how far he has come already since his draft day.
Patrick had surgery to repair a sports hernia just 10 days prior to being selected by the Flyers, which delayed his first appearances on the ice. He wasn’t able to physically participate in development camp. He rehabbed over the offseason and was ready for training camp.
He wasn’t an offensive standout in the preseason, but showed a poise and confidence on the ice that won him a roster spot at the start of the season. Just nine games into his rookie season, he suffered a concussion and missed the next nine games as a result.
Patrick’s NHL career got off to a slow start. He wasn’t a poor player by any stretch, more than capable in his own zone and showing flashes of offensive prowess. But this wasn’t a middle of the pack first-rounder getting his first NHL exposure. This was an NHL-ready, top pick in the draft.
The expectations were higher, but Patrick’s recovery, both from the offseason surgery and the concussion, were still slowing him down.
At the end of January, with 41 NHL games under his belt, Patrick had just four goals and seven assists for 11 points.
From February on, as his minutes started to increase, his skating speed returned and his skill was showcased even more with his confidence returning, Patrick turned the corner and started to look like the player that was anticipated to come out of the draft with the capabilities to meet such high expectations.
Patrick scored five goals in February and had seven points in 13 games. He had one goal and seven points in 15 games in March. He closed the regular season with five points, including three goals, in the final four games, finishing his rookie season with 13 goals and 30 points.
On paper, that’s a rather mediocre first season from a high-end top prospects. But when you look at his stats through the first 41 games of his career, Patrick started to show signs of the player he can be when fully healthy in the last 32 of his rookie season.
In the final 32 games of the regular season from February through April, Patrick scored nine goals and had 19 points.
More than that, it was that Patrick’s work ethic and confidence never wavered. Physically, he wasn’t able to perform as he is fully capable at the start of the season and returning from a concussion slowed him down further.
His strong second half, however, is the reason he was such a hyped selection in the first place. He has exceptional skills in many areas of the game and while it took some time to see them on full display, the flashes of excellence that Patrick was able to show over the last few months proved how good he can be.
It didn’t seem like Patrick had to do that much to make an NHL roster in his draft year. He was ready and past the point of playing junior hockey. But that doesn’t mean he has not come a long way since his draft day a year ago.
Patrick was leaned on heavily down the stretch to be a key player for the Flyers, not just another rookie earning sporadic ice time in a bottom-six role. Next season, his role will only increase.
It was quite possibly a more difficult year for Patrick in 2017-18 than in his draft year when he dealt with and played through injury for most of the year. The way he overcame that and rose to the occasion later in the season shows the growth that he was still able to achieve despite the hype.
With Patrick now firmly a part of the Flyers roster, this offseason is different. It provides a full offseason of rest and preparation, which should allow him to enter the season as a better player. The growth can only continue from the previous season if that is the case.
If he wasn’t an attraction taking the ice in his rookie to simply see the skill set and talent, his sophomore season may provide an even better look at that as the growth continues.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.