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What to expect from Nolan Patrick next season

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Will he live up to the hype of the #2 overall pick?

NHL: New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing 2016-17 season in which the Flyers missed the playoffs, their fortunes, and the team’s trajectory, changed in the offseason when they were handed the #2 pick in the 2017 draft. The result of that event, Nolan Patrick, has split the fan base. There are those who plead patience with the 20-year-old center, as he is young and has room to improve. Alternatively, after seeing the performances of other young players in his draft year, such as Miro Heiskanen and Elias Pettersson, some Flyers faithful are frustrated with Patrick’s lack of a jump in production.

Like every roster player, Patrick will enter the 2019-20 season with more questions than answers regarding his game. However, Patrick taking a step forward is critically important to this team in the immediate future if they do not sign a clear-cut second line center. While I’m pretty sure the Flyers will do so, it is unsure how much of a long-term move that will be, and Patrick not being able to step in to that void would be less than ideal. Will Patrick step up and live up to the hype of being the #2 overall pick? Or will he be destined for a bottom six role?

What the numbers say

Nolan Patrick through his first two seasons

Year Games G A Pts CF% CF% 5v5 Expected Goals for Point shares
Year Games G A Pts CF% CF% 5v5 Expected Goals for Point shares
2017-18 73 13 17 30 52.95 49.28 51.22 2.6
2018-19 72 13 18 31 49.8 47.83 49.62 2.2

(all advanced stats courtesy of Corsica Hockey)

Patrick’s point output wasn’t bad for a rookie, nor for a second or third line center on a struggling team as the Flyers were in 2018-19. However, his underlying numbers tell a slightly different story. Patrick’s Corsi-For (CF%) at both 5v5 and all situations dropped last season. So far, in both seasons, he hasn’t been a notable play driver. His CF% of 52.95% in all situations for 2017-18 is the best output, though again, at 5-on-5 this number drops to 49.28% which is to be expected. His possession metrics don’t stand out, but they aren’t noticeably bad either. If the Flyers had played better last season, and Patrick recorded a 47.83% Corsi-For as he did, then I would be more concerned. However, since the Flyers as a whole struggled, I’m less inclined to place fault solely on Patrick for that output. I would say that it is concerning though.

In terms of his point shares, they come in quite low. This is to somewhat be expected, as he was only the eigth highest scoring forward on the team. To put his point share of last season (2.2) into perspective, he ranks below Oskar Lindblom (2.7) and above Scott Laughton (1.9). This seems like a fair assessment. Lindblom certainly played more effectively than Patrick, and Laughton would not be expected to rank above Patrick playing in the bottom six. Patrick’s expected goals gives me a cause for concern, as his number dipped below 50.00, which brings him near Brett Connolly (49.55) and Nick Cousins (47.98). I don’t think Patrick will end up being as low value as those two players, but it is certainly concerning to see him wind up there.

Comparables

I noted that some of Patrick’s statistics give me pause, but I am more confident that Patrick will improve rather than stagnate. Generally, players that are drafted as high as Patrick do not become poor NHLers. For comparables, I’ve looked at high draft picks who play center and are similar in build and play style: Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf, and Rick Nash. All three players started their career putting up 30-40 points (non-adjusted), with point shares averaging 3.33. However, by year three or four at the latest, those numbers drastically improve. By their fifth NHL season, comparables averaged 71 points, with a point share of 8.8. Patrick is clearly still figuring out how to be a good, hopefully great, NHL player. He has had setbacks, whether that be injuries or coaching choices. However, trends would point to Patrick being able to eventually figure it out. The concern still is how good will he be when he eventually adjusts to the NHL level, and while that may not be as good as the trends suggest, I think Patrick will be useful.

Conclusion

I think it is fair to feel nervous, or even disappointed, with Nolan Patrick. But, by the same token, that doesn’t mean we know what Patrick will look like fully developed at the NHL level yet. Will Patrick improve to be a 70-point player next season? Almost certainly not. However, to expect another repeat season from Patrick may be wrong. I think Patrick has it in him to produce around 40-45 points, and be good for a 3.0+ point share. That’s not a huge improvement, but it would still signal that he is headed in the right direction. However, taking his raw numbers aside, should Patrick’s advanced metrics not improve, then I will have greater concerns. Centers that don’t drive play negatively impact their teams, and if Patrick cannot improve upon this, then danger will be lurking. Conversely, if Patrick can drive play, but not put up points, the Flyers should be very patient with him and not give up on the player easily. Trends show that the points will come eventually. Just look at Sean Couturier! We’re certainly glad the Flyers didn’t give up on him.


Projections - previous players analyzed:

Claude Giroux

Travis Konecny

Oskar Lindblom

Sean Couturier