One day — maybe sooner rather than later — the Philadelphia Flyers will be thankful that Nolan Patrick missed most of his 2016-17 junior season because of injuries.
After a 102-point 2015-16 season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, Patrick was the consensus number one pick for the 2017 Draft. But multiple injuries that held him back to just 33 games last season, plus the ascent of Nico Hischier, caused the now-19 year old to slip to second overall.
Hischier may turn out to be the better player, but Flyers can’t complain about jumping to second overall and selecting the player that was long-determined as the should-be first overall pick.
As for Patrick’s season, despite playing less than half of the season, he finished fourth on the Wheat Kings in scoring with 46 points. If he had played the full season at that pace the Winnipeg native would have scored 100 points.
General manager Ron Hextall has never — and will never — just give a prospect a spot on the roster. But Patrick is also the most likely prospect under Hextall’s regime to earn a spot in their rookie season.
Still Patrick will have to beat out players like Matt Read, Scott Laughton and Jori Lehtera for a spot in the top nine. It doesn’t look that hard on paper and shouldn’t be on the ice either.
The Flyers, of course, have a big decision to make in the coming weeks of where Patrick will play. Unlike Oskar Lindblom and some other prospects, Patrick cannot be sent to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It’s either the Flyers or the Wheat Kings.
It’s still early, but as described above, it’s fair to assume Patrick will be in San Jose come October 4th even if Hextall is willing to push him a little:
And chances are Patrick will be the third line center.
The Flyers may have tried Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier together, but to start the year they’ll be separated with Giroux manning the first line and Couturier the second. That leaves the third to Patrick, but that’s not guaranteed to last.
If Patrick proves himself more than just a third-liner in the beginning of the season, coach Dave Hakstol should be open to moving him up the lineup. Then Giroux and Couturier could be paired together.
Most junior-to-NHL translated point projections have Patrick scoring impressively during his past couple of years in the WHL:
Add in that the Flyers have the most offensive depth they’ve seen in quite a while and Patrick is set up nicely in Philly this year.
As Hakstol has proven before, a focus on defense is crucial for every rookie. There shouldn’t be any issues there with Patrick, so don’t expect the scratchings that Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny have seen, also.
So a solid chance at producing offense and already a strong defensive player, Patrick should expect plenty of success his rookie season. As long as he stays healthy, 40-45 points and a promotion to the top six is possible.