CHICAGO — Center Nolan Patrick is ready to put this season behind him and focus on his future with the Philadelphia Flyers after they selected him with the No. 2 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas on Friday.
Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) was limited to 33 games for Brandon because of a sports hernia but was 10th in the Western Hockey League with an average of 1.39 points per game.
“You never want to be injured in your draft year,” he said. “That was a tough year for me, but I think it makes me tougher as a player. Adversity at this age doesn’t hurt. I’m just going to move on from there and get ready for next season.”
Patrick, who turns 19 on Sept. 19, was No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2017 draft, but the New Jersey Devils took center Nico Hischier from Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the top pick. Hischier was ranked No. 2 by Central Scouting.
“I didn’t know where I was going to go, but I kind of had a feeling I was going to end up in Philly, and that’s a place I’d be really excited if I had a chance to go there,” said Patrick, who was named the best professional prospect in the Canadian Hockey League despite missing more than half of the WHL season. “It’s tough to put into words right now, but it’s a special day for me and my family.”
The Flyers brought Patrick to Philadelphia to be examined by their doctors, and general manager Ron Hextall said the medical report was positive.
“We had the second pick, so we gathered an awful lot of information on a very select group of players,” he said. “Nolan was one of them. There’s some stuff out there that you wanted to prove wrong; we did. We were comfortable with the injury part of it. I believe Nolan is a really good young man … works hard, wants to be a National Hockey League player, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him on board. Really big, prototypical center; [those are] very hard to find.”
Patrick believes playing in the NHL next season is something he can do now that he’s healthy.
“Just need a good summer of training, getting bigger and stronger,” he said. “Just all-around strength, that’s the main thing.”
Hextall said Patrick will have to prove that he can make the Flyers a better team in order to earn an NHL roster spot.
“We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set,” Hextall said. “But he got drafted today. The work starts now. Nolan has got to put the work in. … He’s got to get to work. This is another level.
“He needs to have a big summer. To go from the junior level to the NHL level is a huge jump for any player. … He has a very well-rounded game. He’s a big, strong guy, got a heavy stick. Plays the game the right way. He’s going to see a higher pace, he’s going to see bigger bodies. He’s going to see it’s harder to get to the net. All the little things you have to do as an NHL player. He’s going to have to make that adjustment. It’s not easy. He’s got work to do.”
Hischier, who is the highest-selected player from Switzerland, looks forward to playing against Patrick.
“It would be good to play against Nolan in the future,” Hischier said. “He’s a great guy. When I was picked, he congratulated me and was a really classy guy. I appreciated that. Not a lot of guys would do that.”
The Flyers made Patrick’s path a bit easier when they traded forward Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for forward Jori Lehtera, the 27th pick of the 2017 draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2018 draft.
Schenn was second on the Flyers with 25 goals this season, the third time in the past four seasons he’s scored at least 20.
“It was one of those that just kind of came out of nowhere,” Hextall said. “Wasn’t like we were shopping Brayden. But this deal came along and we really like the draft next year, we like the late pick this year, we like Jori. Just kind of a deal that made sense.”
With the No. 27 pick, the Flyers selected Sault Ste. Marie center Morgan Frost, who was No. 31 on Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters. He had 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) in 67 Ontario Hockey League games this season.