Before dropping the first game of a three-game road trip to the Colorado Avalanche, some news arose about former 2nd overall pick, Nolan Patrick.
Back on September 26th, it was announced that Patrick had been diagnosed with migraine disorder. As most know, head injuries were the Achilles’ heel of the 21-year-old center. Head injuries are almost impossible to predict in terms of recovery time. So, unfortunately for Patrick and the Flyers, the unknown still surrounds his potential return. However, he did travel with the team prior to heading to Colorado.
Where is he?
Patrick has been sitting on the “long term injured reserve list” since November 22nd. This means, at minimum, he’d be unable to play for at least 10 NHL games and 24 days in the NHL season. Sitting out is unusual for Patrick, as he has played in 145 (88% of Flyers’ total games) since being drafted in 2017. Going into the draft, injuries were a concern for the top-rated prospect. However, those were body injuries. Brain injuries are much more subjective and are different for anybody. No one can truly know the exact recovery time, or what exactly is going on. It’s up to Patrick to let the team know when he feels ready.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher acknowledged this back on October 31st:
“Nolan’s a player who will help us win a lot of hockey games when he gets back. We’re hopeful. It’s a tough situation. Again, I won’t speculate because I can’t. I can’t predict what will happen. … It would be hard for any human being to predict when that will all come together for him.”
The Good News
Despite there being no true way to measure his recovery other than hearsay, there have been plenty of strides in the right direction. Patrick started skating back at the end of October with a non-contact jersey on and has been skating almost every day since. Teammates Chris Stewart and Kevin Hayes have begun to bond with him, and the young center has started to do drills with the healthy scratches. Hayes, who lives with Patrick, notes that the team visits his room and checks in with the youngster often.
Stewart, an NHL vet who’s been through it all, noted Patrick’s perseverance before their road trip:
“I’m not in the lineup right now and he’s hurt, so it’s oddly that we’re spending a lot of time together — working out together, skating together every morning,” Stewart said. “For me personally, I’m just trying to be positive for him. Toughest job in the league is being hurt and not playing. You get caught up trying to look at the big picture every night as opposed to just looking at the small picture — what do I’ve got to do today, what do I’ve got to do next. Then that building up over time, hopefully you start feeling better.”
Before Wednesday night’s loss to the Avalanche, Patrick was noted to be traveling with the team. This is a huge step in the right direction. As someone with a traumatic brain injury causing headaches each day, flying and traveling in a car long distances can be tolling on the brain. Nolan Patrick joined the team for their road trip. Not only will this allow him to feel apart of the team, but it should also serve as a confidence boost.
No Reason to Worry
Patrick has expressed that there “are more than just headaches” that he is dealing with, which allows the rumors of this being “concussion-related” to arise. However, this is nothing unfamiliar to other NHL players.
Philadelphia fans should not raise any concern quite yet. Looking back on the career of Nicklas Bäckström, who has accumulated nearly 900 career points, has faced the same disorder. Bäckström, who will be in the Hall of Fame conversation, rebounded nicely from his migraines. The same goes for Sidney Crosby, who faced his fair share of head injuries.
It’s hard to speculate exactly when Patrick will return. The Flyers are off to a hot start this season, which allows the team to not feel pressed to rush him back. Patrick has a bright future ahead, and there should be no cause for concern yet over his potential. Head injuries are a different breed, and any brain trauma is truly the worst-case scenario.
Patrick and the front office are still expecting a return this season. As there is no need to rush it, all we can say for now is to get well soon, Nolan.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports