Will the offseason just end already? The dog days of summer are here, but the signs of hockey are starting to trickle inside the Flyers Skate Zone. There are a lot of players arriving early for camp with the likes of Kevin Hayes, Joel Farabee, Alex Lyon, Kirill Ustimenko, Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman, and Nate Prosser. Hockey is almost back for the orange and black.
There are some players on the Flyers roster that have a lot to prove this coming season. If these players do not improve from last year, then the end result might be the Flyers missing the playoffs for the second straight season. In part three of this series, let’s take a look at Nolan Patrick.
The Flyers had a string of good luck on Saturday, April 29, 2017. They moved up 11 slots to the second-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and drafted a stud in Patrick. This was a life-changing turn of events for this proud franchise. Patrick was a beast in Junior hockey while playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings, as he razzled and dazzled opponents. He also torched opposing goaltenders on a nightly basis, as well.
Patrick finally has had a full offseason where he could train as hard as he wants to, in order to improve his game for the 2019-20 season. He managed to improve his point totals from the year prior, as he finished the 2018-19 campaign with 31 points (13g,18a). In 2017-18 Patrick finished the year with 30 points. However, Patrick has left the Flyers a lot yet to be desired, as he was nominated as the 2018-19 breakout player before the season began.
Unfortunately, Patrick had a few bouts with injuries once again this past season, and these injuries happened to come at the wrong time. He was finally making huge strides with his game offensively, as it was apparent Patrick was gaining confidence at the NHL level, but then an injury occurred. Moreover, forty games before the All-Star break Patrick only tallied 9 points, post the All-Star break, he tallied 22 points. It appears that Patrick excels in the second half of the season.
Patrick does a lot of things well on the ice. His ability to shut down some of the top lines, as Patrick thinks defense first, shows he can be a solid two-way player in the NHL. He closes gaps on players well, much like Sean Couturier does. Moreover, Patrick had career highs this past season in Hits (72), TK (40), and Blocks (26). Patrick just needs to gain his confidence offensively.
The former Brandon Wheat King product, Patrick has great vision and gets into the open areas of the ice. One area of his game that needs improvement, however, is finishing. Yes, he has been snake bit at times with hitting posts, but Patrick has to finish the play more often. Sometimes he thinks pass first, as opposed to just shooting the puck at the net. This will come in time, but if he takes the next step this season, watch out the Flyers could be deadly. It took Couturier time to develop his game the way it has, and hopefully the same will follow suit with Patrick. Maybe the addition of a 2C in Kevin Hayes will help alleviate some pressure off Patrick. This may give him more comfortability to focus on his game offensively as a 3C, rather than just focusing on the defensive side of things.
Fortunately, Patrick is so darn talented offensively that he can breakout out anytime. He is a giddy kid, good character guy in the locker room, as he was singing Lionel Richie’s big hit, “All Night Long,” throughout the course of the season last year. Moreover, Patrick stated to me in an interview in 2017 before the Flyers drafted him, “To the fans, I’m a passionate guy. I want to win. I know they want to win. You’re getting an energy type player who works very hard. I stop at nothing, and just want to succeed.”
Patrick has the tools to break out this year, and I believe that he can finish the year with at least 50 points. The key for Patrick is staying healthy. His injuries seem to occur when he gets the ball rolling offensively. Hopefully, that does not occur this season, and Patrick and the Flyers will fly high into the Playoffs.
Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports