Scout’s Take: What exactly is happening with Nolan Patrick?

Join Jeff Marek as he looks at his top WHL prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft.

The Point of No Certain Return
One of the disappointments in the CIBC CHL Russia Series is simply a carry-over from one of the disappointments of the early major junior season: the absence of Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Wheat Kings GM Grant Armstrong said Patrick is day-to-day, as are we all, I suppose. “We’re not certain when we’re going to see him back in the lineup,” Armstrong told the Vancouver Sun.

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In Patrick’s case, it is what the team describes as an upper-body injury that has him on the sidelines for an indefinite term. In this case, the definition of “upper-body” pertains to anything above the knees. Patrick had sports-hernia surgery over the summer and right now he’s nursing an abdominal injury (unrelated to the surgery, per the Wheat Kings). And “indefinite” amounts to “your guess is as good as mine.” As updated on November 7, the information that has been provided to NHL Central Scouting is listed as (complete with punctuation): “Range; 2-3 weeks or 4-5 weeks?”

So far, Patrick has missed 11 games prior to the WHL contests against Russia and no one is suggesting that any prospect has soared up in Patrick’s absence to threaten his first-overall status. That said, his injury and convalescence has scouts talking. Said one scout whose team is likely to be in the lottery mix: “I understand about [Patrick] wanting to be cautious and that he’s getting advice to be cautious from the team, his family and his agent and doctors. You’re balancing the idea that you don’t want to have a re-injury that leads to long-term issues.

“But how long is too long? Do you have to be 100 percent? Sometimes getting into the line-up is part of the recovery [and] you only get up to full speed by testing it and pushing it.”

According to this scout and others I spoke with in recent days, their inquiries are being referred to his agent with Titan Sports, Jarrett Bousquet, who just happens to have a degree in kinesiology.

Taking One For The Team
You completely understand that prospects want to be showcased to the best possible effect in their draft year, which makes the case of Windsor’s Gabe Vilardi an interesting one. Vilardi considers himself as a centre in the John Tavares mould and if he doesn’t quite have Tavares’s magic twig at the same age, the 17-year-old from Kingston has a lot of physical upside and dynamic skating.

Scouts project Vilardi as a potential top 10 talent but their reading of him is complicated by the fact that he has moved onto the left wing beside Logan Brown. It’s a move by the Spitfires that many kids (or agents or parents) might not be crazy about.

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After beginning the season injured, Vilardi has seven goals and 17 points in 11 games for the Windsor Spitfires. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Said one veteran scout who works the OHL: “I saw him as a centre and liked him a lot. He was a priority for me this year. And I don’t know if [his position] is a centre at the next level—it might be. But those two are really good together and if [Vilardi] has any issues about not playing centre you’d never know it.

“You have to give him a lot of credit for [putting] the team first and showing a lot of hockey sense in being able to adapt. Some kids might take it as a slap or pout about it, but he’s figured it out that it’s good for the team, gets him a lot of ice time with a chance to succeed and lets him show that he’s flexible in whatever role you need him to fill.”

Scouting the Under-17s
Various subjects covered out of one scout’s notebook from the World Under-17 Challenge in the Soo, where last week Sweden knocked off Team Canada Black to take the gold.

On the U.S. team
“I don’t really know what the issue with the [USA Hockey under-17] program is. I saw a U.S. under-17 team in a tournament in Dallas [this fall], a team that had kids from Minnesota and others who didn’t wind up [in Plymouth]. It was a much better team than the one in the Soo.

“Maybe it goes a bit in cycles, but there was a day that the U.S. came up to this tournament as a clear favourite, having a chance to play together all season. I know they’ve had some turnover in management—Ryan Rezmeirski did a great job recruiting kids to the program but he left and is working for Nashville now.”

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On the Swedes
Clearly the best team in the tournament and should have won easier in the final. The kid that I really liked was Adam Bokvist, a defenceman who reminds me of [John] Klingberg in Dallas. He might be small right now [listed at 5-foot-10 and 165 lb. by Central Scouting] but he’s so young [an August 2000 birthday] that you can see him still growing.”

On Kelowna’s Nolan Foote, son of former NHLer Adam Foote
“I really liked his game, especially when you consider that he’s a double underager [a late-2000 birthday]. His brother Callan is like the old man, a great big defenceman who might go in the first round this year, for sure up high, but the younger kid is a big, skilled winger.”

On Oshawa right wing Serron Noel, son of former CFLer Dean Noel
“Back in the first few weeks of the season I saw him and just thought he was a raw, lumbering kid, a 6-4 and 190 16-year-old. But he just seems to get stronger and fit better every week—you see kids improve from the first half to the second or one season to the next, but it’s been so fast with [Noel].

On Swift Current centre Riley Stotts
“I liked the kid’s game a lot the couple of games he played, but he had his skates off in the dressing room and another kid’s skate blade cut his foot wide open and who knows how long he’s done for.” Note: Preliminary reports were that there was no tendon damage and he’ll be out of the lineup four to six weeks.

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