Ten days before the Philadelphia Flyers chose him second overall at the 2017 NHL Draft, Nolan Patrick underwent abdominal surgery, the second time he’d had the procedure in a year. The top-ranked prospect for most of last season, Patrick’s biggest knock was his lack of durability as injury concerns swirled around him.
Ultimately, Patrick fell to No. 2 behind Nico Hischier, a late-charging Swiss native who burst into the conversation with a tremendous WJC performance, finishing with 86 points in 57 QMJHL games. Patrick spent the summer recovering and now, according to Flyers GM Ron Hextall, the team’s top 2017 pick is ready for the new hockey season and will report to rookie camp with the rest of Philadelphia’s prospects on Sept. 11.
“He’s cleared and he’s good to go,” Hextall told Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi.
Patrick, a six-foot-two, 198-pound centre may not came with the same ceiling as Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, but he’s still projected to be a top-six centre and key contributor in the future. With recent No. 2 overall picks making the jump directly from the draft to the NHL, it’s easy to assume Patrick will be up there as well in the coming season.
But again, the 2017 draft isn’t like some of the others that have had generational talents at the top. Patrick is probably less like Patrik Laine and Jack Eichel, and more like a Sam Reinhart, the last No. 2 overall pick who was sent back to junior after being drafted.
Reinhart, who went with the second pick in 2014, played nine games with the Sabres before going back to the Kootenay Ice, where he scored 65 points in 47 games.
Patrick will be given a shot to make the NHL club, but Hextall refused to say that the team’s plan was for him to start, and stay, with the team in October.
“He’s got to do the same thing as all the other kids. He’s got to come in and show us that he can help make us a better team and that it’s the right thing for us,” Hextall told Carchidi. “It’s truly that simple. We’ve got numbers. We don’t have to have him. We’ve got other kids who can play and we have veterans, so we’re in a good position with him.”
If Patrick does end up going back to junior, make sure not to read too much into that move. The top talent hockey fans have been spoiled with in the past two drafts has quickly distorted what expectations should be for most of these players.
And Hextall wanted to drive the point home to Carchidi that if Patrick returns to the Brandon Wheat Kings with or without a nine-game trial, the Flyers won’t view it as a disappointment.
“Absolutely not. If he needs time, he needs time,” Hextall said. “We’re going to have Nolan Patrick for the next 10, 15 years, not one day or one month or two months. We’re looking at the next 15 years and what’s best for Nolan Patrick. If it’s best to go back to Brandon, then he’ll go back to Brandon. If it’s best to stay here, he’ll stay here.”
Always remember, you ruin more players by rushing them to the NHL than you do players who are carefully developed.