Earlier this summer the Flyers lucked out and won the second selection of this year’s NHL Draft. With this kind of good fortune, Ron Hextall should take a trip down the AC Express way.
Nolan Patrick, who was the consensus number one pick by most scouts last year, fell to Philadelphia after the Devils took Forward Nico Hischier with the top selection. Frankly, this draft was seen as a two player draft. Both Patrick and Hischier are expected to become cornerstones of their respected franchises. Both better with the puck and more physical, Patrick seems like the better fit for the Flyers. The orange and black need more secondary scoring and someone to stabilize the second line. It seems like Patrick will excel with the Flyers this year, but what are some realistic expectations for the rookie?
In recent seasons, top picks have developed into studs seemingly overnight. Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Connor McDavid, and Jack Eichel all became household names in no time.
While very skilled, Nolan Patrick is not the type of player who will need to be an overnight success in the NHL. An immediate offensive impact from the Rookie would be great for the Flyers, but unrealistic.
Rather, expect to see Nolan a regular contributor on Special Teams. When the team traded Brayden Schenn this offseason, they lost their leading point man on the power play. Patrick could be a guy used to replace Schenn’s production. The Center spot on the first unit is Giroux’s job to lose, so look for Patrick to center the second unit. This is where his skill and vision will be showcased as the team should occupy the puck during the man advantage. It would also benefit the youngster to get some experience killing penalties. Defensive play has not yet been a liability in Patrick’s minor league career. Successful penalty kills could also provide some much needed confidence. Pierre-Édouard Bellemare was the team’s most consistent penalty killer from a year ago. With him gone, Patrick could be one player who hears his number called when short-handed.
While he could, and should, see playing time on special teams, Patrick’s calling card is his playmaking abilities. He is a player who can shoot, skate, and pass efficiently. That is what got him drafted second overall. The Flyers are in desperate need of an offensive upgrade, particularly on the second line. Patrick should be able to step in and provide numerous scoring chances on the attack. Line combinations are to be determined, and change too frequently to speculate. Either way, the Forwards on Patrick’s line should instantly benefit from his presence.
Patrick may not be the best player on the ice, or win the Calder Cup (he’s received little Calder consideration this preseason), but he is a guy that will make the Flyers a better team on a nightly basis. While every top pick has massive pressure to preform, the Flyers are not asking for Patrick to be the team’s MVP. Claude Giroux has the top Center spot locked down, and first line production is not the expectation. As long as he shows the skill and determination from his past and stays healthy, his rookie campaign should be a smashing success.
The league is stacked with young talent. Players today are able to make the transition from minors to the pros better than ever before. This trend is great for the sport, and one that the Flyers hopes will carry on. The Oilers and Maple Leafs were able to put together playoff runs behind the strength of their young superstars. If this trend continues, Nolan Patrick could be the next youngster to push his team to the next plateau.