When a draft pick doesn’t work out to the expectations set, the notion of a player being awful becomes universally accepted. That’s not always the case. A once touted prospect can still carve out an okay career. It’s why there is logic in giving Nolan Patrick one more prove-it contract extension.
Sensibly speaking, it would have been unexpected for him to return last year and get back to his best. He missed all of 2019-2020, and it showed.
Remember in 2019-2020 when the question was always about his injury status? Never getting a detailed answer was misery. Then, the reaction to the idea of him scrimmaging with Ryan White. Months later, Patrick hit (and received, including a puck to the helmet) at full speed and finished healthy.
Sometimes the original goal is overlooked. Just returning to the Flyers was good news. The best could be yet to come from Nolan Patrick, a former first-round pick from 2017. Imagine if he did have a comeback season on a deal for less than $1mil.
Is the long-term patience from Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault going to pay off when Philadelphia least expects it?
The upcoming offseason is the first complete one he’ll have to prepare for since his time away due to a migraine disorder. As COVID restrictions become lax with fans returning to the arenas, the NHL will likely return to a typical travel schedule. Teammates will be able to practice with one another, meaning Patrick can build chemistry with his linemates. He’ll also be mentally and physically ready following a real training camp with Vigneault. One active offseason with his coaching staff and teammates could bring Patrick back to life.
How much could that moment of optimism cost? Around $800K, give or take.
Patrick scored thirty points in each season when he participated in a usual training camp schedule. Thirty points would put him in the top ten of team scoring. Instead, he is the only Flyers forward to score less than ten points while playing more than fifty games in 2020-2021. That’s not so bad if he only costs $800K next year.
But what if another year to reacclimate himself to the NHL pace could expedite his development into a possession center. Only Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux were better at taking faceoffs in Philadelphia.
An optimistic expectation would be for Patrick to spend the bulk of his time flirting around the middle-six forwards. When Vigneault plays with the lineup, he should feel comfortable exchanging him with Kevin Hayes. Additionally, Patrick plays right-wing. If Jakub Voracek is a casualty in the NHL Expansion Draft, he could be the new 2RW.
Again, I’m filling my glass with optimism.
And, what do the Flyers have to lose? He was progressing defensively before 2019-2020, scoring with a balanced approach while gaining his team extra possessions.
Philadelphia could be the only franchise with enough faith to give Patrick another chance. There isn’t a single team who would see his recent production as an asset. Investing in Frederick Gaudreau or Sam Gagner in free agency would be wiser in the eyes of many general managers. Fletcher has a loaded hand. When he plays it, will his patience with Patrick come up empty or pay off dividends?
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre