For the first time in a long time, Nolan Patrick has enjoyed a healthy offseason.
The 19-year-old forward didn’t need offseason surgery for the the first time since 2015 and has his eyes set on a productive sophomore campaign for the Flyers.
Patrick required sports hernia surgery after the 2015-16 season and abdominal muscle surgery in June of 2017 before the Flyers selected him second overall at the 2017 NHL Draft.
Patrick spoke with NHL.com about his offseason training and his expectations for 2018-19:
“It was nice to go hard all summer and not have any limitations,” Patrick said after an informal skate at the Flyers practice facility on Wednesday. “This summer felt good. I had a good summer and I’m excited for [training] camp.”
Patrick said his workout regimen was entirely different from previous summers because he was able to do things as basic as running, which had previously aggravated his abdominal injuries.
“I could do everything this summer,” he said. “Pushed myself pretty hard. Wanted to improve everything, get stronger, faster, work on my shot. I kind of tried to cover all areas. … I feel really good; feel like I had a good summer.”
The Manitoba native struggled out of the gate in his rookie season, recording just nine points (three goals) in his first 40 games. While fans were quick to express their concerns, Patrick’s early-season struggles likely had to do with his recovery from the abdominal muscle surgery he underwent in the offseason. Patrick then sustained a concussion against the Anaheim Ducks in late-October and was sidelined for three weeks. Once the dynamic playmaker got healthy and found his game, he was electric, racking up 21 points (10 goals) in his final 33 regular-season games of the season.
Patrick’s improved play didn’t go unnoticed by the coach, as he was given an increased role in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the Flyers lost to the Penguins in six games, Patrick saw his average ice time increase from 12:14 at the start of the season to 16:38 per game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I think the biggest area of growth was his growth in confidence,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “There was a flip of the switch with him, and it’s typical of a young, skilled player adjusting to the League. There’s a time period where all of a sudden he wanted that puck on his stick. Instead of looking to get it and move it and make a quick play, [it] just felt like there was a time period as we hit the middle of the year, just his overall command with the puck and wanting to have the puck on his tape and the confidence with the puck on his tape, that was a huge area of growth. As soon as that happened, as soon as that clicked, he was really effective for us.”
Patrick should play a key role in the top-six for the Flyers this season and could lineup alongside a returning fan favorite. James van Riemsdyk signed a five-year contract on July 1 to return to the Flyers and could form a lethal duo with Patrick.
Van Riemsdyk said playing with a right-shot center like Patrick would benefit him in his adjustment to a new team. Last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, van Riemsdyk played with right-shooting Tyler Bozak as his center and netted a career-high 36 goals.
Patrick said having a left-shooting left wing would be good for him too.
“It’s easier throwing the puck to the outside there when it’s a lefty not a righty, taking it on his forehand instead of his backhand,” Patrick said. “[Van Riemsdyk] is a special player so if you have a chance to play with him, it would make the game easier for you.”
The Flyers are primed to take a step forward in 2018-19, and Patrick and JVR could be one of their top driving offensive forces.