With an explosive intra-squad scrimmage now in the rear-view mirror, all eyes turn towards the season opener. Team White bounced back from a two-goal deficit on Sunday night, overthrowing Team Orange in a game that will go a long way in deciding roster spots and line combinations. One player who really made the most of that opportunity was none other than Nolan Patrick.
The former second-overall missed all of last season due to a migraine disorder and after accepting a qualifying offer from the team, has spent the last few months doing all he can to fight his way back into a position where he can play Hockey regularly. The icing on the cake may well have been his performance on Sunday night.
“It’s been obviously nice to be back. It’s obviously been a really long time.” Nolan Patrick said shortly after his impressive performance. “No one ever wants to be out that long, but this is really exciting to be back with the team and being around the guys, taking a part in everything. I guess it went pretty well.”
Playing on the third line with Jake Voracek and James van Riemsdyk for most of the night, Patrick was quite literally the center of attention all game. Patrick tied the game up in the second period with 3:37 remaining and spent the rest of the night creating countless opportunities for his teammates and looking like he’d never been away.
“I played with both of them for quite a bit.” The 22-year-old went onto say, reflecting on the experience. “I played with Jake a lot. I think we kind of just read off each other. They’re both very smart players. It’s easy to read off them and I thought we made some pretty good plays tonight.”
It looks as though Patrick has secured a spot on the third line after a strong training camp that was capped by an equally strong scrimmage, drawing the praise of his Head Coach in the process.
“For Nolan, I thought like the white team, he got better as the game went on.” Alain Vigneault said after the game. “For the young man that had not played a game, and for the benefit of it, a game for our whole group, I thought he did a lot of the right things on the ice. I thought that line had some nice chemistry and some good moments. I think that is definitely for him and our team a step in the right direction.”
Patrick will be good to go on Wednesday, he later said, raring to hit the ice in an attempt to find the net against the team’s biggest rival. Being partnered by two veterans in Voracek and JvR has only added to the Canadian’s confidence.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a two-way guy. I always try to be low in the D-zone. Jake and JvR, they both see the ice extremely well. They can protect the puck really well down low. Like I was saying before, it’s two pretty easy guys to read off. They’re both amazing players.”
It’s been a long road for Nolan Patrick and while there’s still some way to go, this offseason has been one of tremendous progress. The curtains closed in the most exciting way possible…but that was just the first act. The real show is only just beginning.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire