Nolan Patrick Opens Up About Injury History, Mindset at NHL Combine

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Nolan Patrick took a timeout toward the end of his shift with reporters on Friday at the NHL Scouting Combine.

The top-ranked draft prospect was feeling the heat inside the NHL's Centennial Museum track and had to remove his jacket before answering the last few questions.

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Patrick is not sweating his draft status after meeting with the Flyers and a dozen other teams this week and reaffirming his health heading into Saturday's fitness testing.  

"I'm not going to try to prove anything," Patrick said. "I'm just going to try and do the tests to the best of my abilities."

Along with Swiss skater Nico Hischier, the Winnipeg-born Patrick is one of two 18-year-old centers the Flyers are expected to select with the No. 2 pick in the June 23-24 draft. The New Jersey Devils hold the first pick and have not yet revealed their plans.

Patrick said he informed teams this week that he has recovered from a misdiagnosed double sports hernia injury that limited him during his last season of junior hockey. He had surgery on his right groin muscle last July, but a similar injury on his left side went undetected and did not heal until after the season.

After leading Brandon to the Western Hockey League championship in 2016, Patrick missed more than half of this past season, including all four WHL playoff games, with various injuries. He has been medically cleared for combine testing and expects to be able to participate in an NHL training camp in September.

"Obviously, it wasn't the ideal season for me," Patrick said. "I don't think any hockey player wants something like that, especially in your draft year."

But now that he is healthy, Patrick believes the injury helped his development.

"I don't think it was the worst thing for me," he said. "I think a little adversity for a young kid makes you stronger as a player. I didn't talk about it during the year in the media, that I was misdiagnosed. This is the first time I've really said anything about it."

The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Patrick still produced 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games last season and won the Top Prospect Award as the best draft-eligible player in the Canadian Hockey League. Hischier, who played in Halifax, was also a finalist for the award.

The NHL teams try to get to know them better this week, while the consensus top two prospects in the draft have spent time getting to know each other.

"It's good to see that he's a really good guy," Patrick said of Hischier.

Patrick said he got no "vibes" from his meeting with the Devils on which player they were leaning toward with the No. 1 pick.

Does Patrick believe he should be the one?

"That's not up for to decide, so I guess I'll see what the NHL teams think," Patrick said. "Obviously, that would be a huge honor. … But I'd be honored to go anywhere."

Patrick is also unconcerned with the perception that the top prospects in this year's draft are not as good as the prizes from 2015 (Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel) or 2016 (Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine).

"At the end of the day, I'm just trying to make the NHL and contribute as much I can," Patrick said. "I'm not putting any added pressure on myself. … I try not to compare myself to those guys. I don't expect to come in and put 40 goals up, or score four goals in my first game. I don't think that happens very often."

Patrick's father, Steve, played 250 games for the Sabres, Rangers and Nordiques from 1980-86. His uncle, James, played 1,280 games with the Rangers, Whalers, Flames and Sabres from 1983-2006 and was an assistant coach for the Stars the past four seasons.

Patrick said his father and uncle have taught him that how he carries himself off the ice will be as important to his success and his skills on the ice.

"They have been huge for me since I was really young," he said.

Unfamiliar with Philadelphia, Patrick does have a friend on the Flyers.

"I've never been there, but one of my good buddies, Ivan Provorov, plays there," Patrick said. "I've talked to him a bit and he loves it."

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