In the beginning of the 2017-18 season, there was some cause for concern with the Flyers second overall pick Nolan Patrick. Patrick was struggling in the underlying metrics - and on the scoresheet. Ever since the beginning of the new season, however, he’s been arguably one of the team’s best forwards, showcasing the kind of skills we knew we were getting when Ron Hextall made the selection. So what’s caused this turnaround?
Patrick’s injury issues in juniors have been well documented, and at the beginning of this season it was clear he wasn’t at 100 percent. Chris Wagner of the Anaheim Ducks didn’t do us any favors, as a hit on Patrick gave the 19 year old a concussion in just his ninth NHL game. Patrick would miss almost an entire month before returning to action. Once he did, he was getting less than 10 minutes a game most nights at 5-on-5 and spending more and more of his ice time with Dale Weise. Patrick’s game was suffering, and he wasn’t being helped much by his coach.
However once the new year began, Patrick seemed to look like a different player. There was an extra jump in his game we simply hadn’t seen in the first half of the season. He always had the great vision and passing sense, but the explosive skating and dominating board battle presence just wasn’t there. The stats have backed up what we’ve seen via the eye test.
Since the Flyers first game of the new year on January 2nd vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins — through the most recent game vs. the Ottawa Senators — Patrick is posting a 52.75 CF%. One of the biggest questions coming into this season was how well Patrick could drive play at the NHL level, and over the past two months he’s done exactly that. Not only has he been driving play, he’s been producing on the scoresheet as well. Since the start of 2018 (24 games), Patrick has scored seven goals and notched four assists for 11 points. Comparatively, in his first 29 games he only scored seven points.
Patrick in first 29 v last 24
A key factor in his turnaround has been the added confidence. In his first 29 games, Patrick only mustered 29 shots on goal, in his last 24? 54 shots (!!!!!). Even with shooting the puck almost twice as much in five fewer games, he’s shooting 13% in this 24 game stretch. In his first 29, Patrick was only shooting 6.9% (nice). His shot and goal scoring ability were major factors for myself and many others in wanting Patrick at number two overall, and now he’s starting to show that ability at the NHL level.
While much of Patrick’s turnaround can be attributed to his regained health, possibly a bigger portion can be attributed to his improved linemates. In the first 29 games, Patrick was not being optimized at times, playing a lot of minutes with with Dale Weise. However as the new year came, Patrick began spending more and more time with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds, and soon Simmonds and Voracek as the permanent 2C. With Simmonds and Voracek, the line produced a CF% of 52.65 - close to Patrick’s numbers in his past 24 games. With Simmonds and Weal, the line has posted a 50.79 CF%. At one point, Patrick was put on a line with Weise and Travis Konecny, and the line posted a horrific 34.19 CF%. It sucks having to rip on this guy all the time...but man, Dale, you have to be some kind of bad to ruin a line with Patrick and Konecny.
Now, the second overall pick seems to have found possibly the perfect linemates in Voracek and Oskar Lindblom. In just a little under 15 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time together, the line has dominated the underlying metrics with a 60.71 CF%. Even when Simmonds comes back, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this line stay together - especially if Lindblom begins to start scoring goals.
Another aspect of Patrick’s game that has caught fire is his impact on the power play. With the injury to Simmonds, he’s taken over the netfront presence role on the first power play unit. In that short time, he’s scored two PPG’s. His passing vision from the front of the net gives the Flyers an entirely new dimension on that first unit, and absolutely could open up more behind the net possibilities (cc: Bill Matz)
With the emergence of Sean Couturier as a legitimate 1C, and the bounce back season to end all bounce backs from Giroux, this has also taken some of the pressure off of Patrick. When he was drafted, it was almost a given he was going to have to be the heir apparent to Claude Giroux as 1C of the Flyers. Now, he doesn’t necessarily have to be. Patrick very well could end up being the first line center but for right now, it has to be nice for him to not have that kind of pressure bestowed upon him.
This season has not been easy for Nolan Patrick, but he’s turned a subpar rookie season into a stepping stone for a long, successful career. He’s healthy, he’s with one of the best passers in the NHL, and he’s getting the playing time he needed from day one. He’s on a four game goal streak to go along with his five game point streak. 2018 so far has most definitely been the year of Nolan Patrick. Watch out, NHL.
Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and hockey reference