A Healthy Nolan Patrick to Flyers? 'He Won't Let Anybody Down,' Brandon GM Says | NBC 10 Philadelphia

A Healthy Nolan Patrick to Flyers? 'He Won't Let Anybody Down,' Brandon GM Says

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    A Healthy Nolan Patrick to Flyers? 'He Won't Let Anybody Down,' Brandon GM Says
    CSNPhilly.com
    A healthy Nolan Patrick to Flyers? 'He won't let anybody down,' Brandon GM says

    As he met with general manager Grant Armstrong, Nolan Patrick had just finished an injury-marred junior season.

    The 18-year-old missed the WHL playoffs and was limited to 33 games because of two separate injuries. He underwent a sports hernia surgery the offseason prior, a major impediment to his summer training. He never quite "caught up to the year," as Armstrong put it.

    "I don't think he really ever got himself into a situation where he was 100 percent," the Brandon Wheat Kings GM said in a phone interview last week with CSNPhilly.com.

    But none of that was about to crack Patrick's confidence.

    "When we had our exit meetings, he told me he was going to play in the NHL," Armstrong said. "I wished him the best of luck and I expect that's where he'll be next year."

    Where he could be is Philadelphia sporting Flyers orange. Patrick and Nico Hischier are the consensus top-two picks for the June 23-24 NHL entry draft. The Flyers, of course, with a stroke of good luck, will be happily sitting at No. 2 overall. The Devils will make Ron Hextall's decision much easier when they pick at No. 1.

    The Canadian Patrick and Swiss-born Hischier are both centers. Coming into the season, Patrick was viewed as the draft's top dog, but his health and Hischier's rise have tightened the race.

    Will the injuries cause apprehension?

    "I think there's no concern at all," Armstrong said. "Injuries are a part of the game and I don't see it being an issue for Nolan at all. He trains well, he works hard at it and rehabs properly. I don't see it being an issue and currently, I think he's at 100 percent."

    Despite the hampered summer and shortened season, Patrick showed why he's so heralded by still compiling 46 points in 33 games for the Wheat Kings, his third year with the junior club. He scored 20 goals and collected 26 assists. Why that might not be mind-blowing is because Patrick had 102 points in 2015-16 on 41 goals and 61 assists for an astounding plus-51 rating. He went on to record 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 playoff games, leading Brandon to its first WHL title in 20 years alongside current Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov.

    Similar to Provorov, Patrick's hockey smarts are well beyond his age.

    "His presence on the ice, he just thinks the game, he puts himself in positions to be successful all the time," Armstrong said. "He's almost above the ice in his thinking aspect. He sees the game so well, he's a student of the game, he understands and puts himself in positions of success. That hasn't changed, it's only getting better for him.

    "He's a difference-maker."

    Armstrong joined the Wheat Kings last summer but had scouted and seen plenty of Patrick as Armstrong worked the previous four seasons for the WHL's Victoria Royals.

    "He's a very elite player with a tremendous hockey sense," Armstrong said. "I think that's his biggest attribute is he thinks the game so well, he thinks it ahead of what's really happening on the ice a lot of the times. He's a player that's really starting to come into his own. 

    "This next season will be a real opportunity for him to showcase his elite hockey sense and his athleticism and all the things that combine to make him a great player."

    It appears Patrick, who has great size at 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, is ready to showcase those traits at the NHL level. His future club will ultimately decide that in training camp.

    "We would like to think we know that, but until the kid comes in and shows you what he can do," Hextall said earlier this month. "You make an educated judgment and then you go from there. A player has to come in and prove that he's ready and at this age not many are, so we'll wait and see which way [the player] goes from there."

    Armstrong said there's constant communication between Brandon and NHL teams throughout a season and that it escalates this time of year as the draft nears.

    What about with the Flyers?

    "The Flyers are a great organization and obviously we have ties to their GM," Armstrong said. "It's a good fit and they know what's going on.

    "They're dialed into what's going on and they have all kinds of ways to communicate with people."

    While Patrick may not jump off the charts with Connor McDavid-like scoring ability, he prides himself on being complete. Armstrong said Patrick models his game after Kings center Anze Kopitar, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and 2015-16 Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's top defensive forward.

    It's the do-it-all mentality Armstrong believes was special, night in and night out.

    "Just the way he makes small plays in a game that would set up a teammate," he said. "He plays a 200-foot game, he's coming back hard and supporting the D in the defensive zone. Switching to offense, he's quick and he does things that make him such a great player.

    "I think everybody thinks that a No. 1 or 2 centerman is going to be completely focused on the offensive side, but no, he's very committed to the defensive side of the puck - I think that's one thing that's a little bit misunderstood about him. He's got such an ability to play in any situation - killing penalties, late in the game, taking big faceoffs, that's his game."

    Armstrong extolled Patrick for making everyone around him better on the Wheat Kings.

    If that's with the Flyers next, Armstrong believes you won't be disappointed.

    "I think they just have to be patient and allow the player to grow. He won't let anybody down," Armstrong said. "I just think he's an elite talent with an elite sense for the game. At some point, he'll be a great two-way centerman in the league. He'll put up offensive numbers. They won't be in the elite category, but he'll be a guy that'll chip away at his game, he'll produce. You just have to take your time and be patient."