In the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers fans had the second overall selection.
The player that the Flyers selected was high scoring two-way center Nolan Patrick. Since then, Patrick has played his rookie season and has been seen as a disappointment among many fans. But, it is still very early in his NHL career, so it makes me wonder if the criticism regarding Patrick is warranted?
Wheat Kings and Hype
Nolan Patrick, a very well-rounded scoring centre, started out his WHL career with a bang, as the Brandon Wheat Kings’ 2013 4th overall pick (WHL Bantam Draft) registered 57P in his first 58GP (0.98 P/GP). This production immediately increased his already high-draft stock (as a 16 year-old!). The following season, Patrick continued to out-perform older talents (72GP-102P, 7th WHL) such as
Brayden Point (48GP-88P, 11th WHL, TBL 3rd Round #79 in 2014)
Mathew Barzal (58GP-88P, 12th WHL, NYI 1st Round #16 2015)
Jack Walker (72GP-84P, 14th WHL, TOR 6th Round #152 2016)
Adam Helewka (53GP-74P, 20th WHL, SJS 4th Round #106 2015)
John Quenneville (57GP-73P, 25th WHL, NJD 1st Round #30 2014)
Ivan Provorov (62GP-73P, 27th WHL, PHI 1st Round #7 2015)
3 of these players were First Round Picks (Barzal, Quenneville, & Provorov), and 1 an NHL All-Star (Barzal).
This production and complete two-way skill set, at such a young age (17 Y/O) garnered Patrick much deserved attention. And so, the hype emerged. Four-of-the-six major NHL draft projections had Patrick as the #1 overall selection (ISS Hockey, Future Considerations, McKeen’s Hockey, NHL Central Scouting). The other two major NHL draft projections (Bob Mackenzie and Hockeyprospect.com) had him at #2.
Patrick had a history, although unclear, of injuries. He had suffered a shoulder injury as a 15 year-old. Unfortunately for Patrick, it had delayed his entry into the WHL. In addition, Patrick had also apparently suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury during his rookie season. Neither injury (although one unspecified) seemed to affect Patrick’s play all that much (evident by his production), so the young star’s health was not of much concern to the Wheat Kings. However, during his sophomore season, Patrick suffered a sports hernia injury (a groin-strain caused by consistent, fast-paced movements) during the 2016 WHL playoffs (in which the Wheat Kings won).
In Patrick’s NHL draft eligible season, he was named captain of the Albertan franchise, an honour Patrick would display only 33 times that season. This was due to the persisting sports hernia, which Patrick had not dealt with during the off-season. The aforementioned injury forced Patrick into mid-season surgery on his groin, costing Patrick a surprisingly low 35 games.
Despite the concerning injury, Patrick was still considered to be the best player in the 2017 draft. However, as the draft neared, Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads appeared to be shifting into 1st overall pick territory. The moment of truth came on June 23 2017, when the New Jersey Devils selected the Swiss-born Hischier with the first pick. This seemed to hurt Patrick, whom had believed himself (like many others) to be the better player.
Philadelphia Flyers Stats and Analytics
Patrick, unsurprisingly began the next season in the NHL with the Flyers. Nolan performed well (73GP-30P), although not as well as expected. Patrick missed 9 games in November 2017 due to an upper-body injury following a hit by then-Ducks forward Chris Wagner.
During the 2017-18 season, Patrick was poor analytically. In 860.42 minutes, he averaged a 48.9 Corsi For % (The Flyers had the puck less than opposition with Patrick on the ice). This rating, for context, is the same as the heavily criticized Dion Phaneuf. Patrick, strangely, happened to have a worse Relative (Even Strength) Corsi For % than Phaneuf, as the Nolan had a -0.2 Corsi REL% to Dion’s +1.2 Corsi REL%. Despite these so-so advanced numbers, Nolan Patrick had an even strength PDO (Team Sv%+Team S%) of 100.9, which is above average and leans into ‘star’ territory.
This season (2018-19), in 50 games and 634.42 minutes of ice time, Nolan has a 47.7 CF% and a -2.4 CR%. Oddly enough, despite having worse analytics and playing on a poor Philadelphia Flyers team, Patrick is on pace to have a better season statistically.
After a disappointing rookie season on a playoff Philadelphia Flyers squad, Patrick has improved in production but regressed in overall play. At 20 years old, he looks worse than expected but is far from a ‘bust’.
Statistics retrieved from hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com, nhl.com, thehockeywriters.com, & quanthockey.com
Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals