“It was nice to go hard all summer and not have any limitations,” Patrick told reporters Wednesday. “This summer felt good. I had a good summer and I’m excited for camp.”
One main reason for Patrick’s optimism heading into 2018-19 is the fact he didn’t have to recover from surgery like he did in each of the past two off-seasons.
The Winnipeg native had hernia surgery in 2016 following his 102-point campaign with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings and had an abdominal muscle repaired in 2017 prior to the NHL Draft. Patrick had been ranked as the top prospect in the 2017 draft class for most of the 2016-17 hockey season yet the New Jersey Devils selected Nico Hischier first overall, which gave the Flyers an opening to draft Patrick with the No. 2 pick.
Patrick’s NHL career got off to an unfortunate start after sustaining a concussion in his ninth game of the season. He missed three weeks then scored just two goals and four assists in his first 31 games post-injury, while averaging a shade over 12 minutes of ice-time per game.
In mid-February, though, Patrick began turning his rookie season around and finished with 17 points in the final 25 games of the regular season and logged an average of 15:34 per game.
Patrick mentioned his confidence grew the better he felt physically and Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said he noticed it too.
“I think the biggest area of growth was his growth in confidence,” Hakstol said. “There was a flip of the switch with him, and it’s typical of a young, skilled player adjusting to the league. There’s a time period where all of a sudden he wanted that puck on his stick. Instead of looking to get it and move it and make a quick play, just felt like there was a time period as we hit the middle of the year, just his overall command with the puck and wanting to have the puck on his tape and the confidence with the puck on his tape, that was a huge area of growth. As soon as that happened, as soon as that clicked, he was really effective for us.”
Patrick’s rotation of wingers as a rookie included Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Oskar Lindblom and Jordan Weal. This year it looks as though Patrick could start the year as the Flyers’ second-line centre with free-agent signing James van Riemsdyk on his left side.
“It’s easier throwing the puck to the outside there when it’s a lefty not a righty, taking it on his forehand instead of his backhand,” Patrick said. “[JVR] is a special player so if you have a chance to play with him, it would make the game easier for you.”
Patrick turns 20 later this month and will continue to grow into his six-foot-two frame. That, plus him feeling reinvigorated physically, could lead to a breakout year.
“I could do everything this summer,” Patrick said. “Pushed myself pretty hard. Wanted to improve everything, get stronger, faster, work on my shot. I kind of tried to cover all areas. … I feel really good. Feel like I had a good summer.”
The Flyers begin their season Oct. 4 on the road against the Vegas Golden Knights.