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Philadelphia Flyers 25 Under 25: Nolan Patrick stagnates in year two

The former No. 2 overall pick turned in a sophomore season that looked, well, almost identical to his rookie campaign.

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

While some young players make a leap in their sophomore season, it’s important to note that isn’t necessarily a given.

That’s where we are with former No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick after a second season in the NHL that looked, well, a whole heck of a lot like his rookie campaign two years ago. The numbers were strikingly similar, with Patrick adding 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games this past year after notching 13 goals and 17 assists in 73 games as a rookie in 2017-18.

An extra assist isn’t exactly a quantum leap by any means, and rather frustrating given that Patrick was essentially handed a top six role out of camp. Though both player and team are likely at fault for the lack of rookie to sophomore season improvement, the fact remains that the Flyers —and GM Chuck Fletcher— didn’t see enough from Patrick to prevent them from dishing out a seven-year, $50 million deal to Kevin Hayes this summer to solve the clubs lack of production from their second center spot.

We’ll get into some of the reasons that Patrick didn’t take the 2C job and run with it last year, but this is more about what exactly the Flyers have —or don’t— in their former top pick after two disappointing seasons at the NHL level.

No. 5: Nolan Patrick

Position: F
Age: 20 (9/19/1998)
Size: 6’2”, 198
Acquired Via: 2017 NHL Draft — Round 1, Pick 2
2018-19 League/Team/Statistics: Philadelphia (NHL) - 13 G, 18 A in 72 GP
Nationality: Canadian
Ranking in BSH Winter 2019 25 Under 25: 3

Patrick falls back two slots in our rankings, and likely falls back among those in his 2017 draft class as well. Niko Hischier, No. 1 overall, has notched 99 points in his first 151 games while Elias Pettersson charged on the scene as a rookie with 66 points in 71 games. Patrick ranks second overall in terms of games played, he’s already third in points behind Pettersson and has provided a lot less impact than Miro Heiskanen or even Robert Thomas among those in his class.

Even among Flyers prospects Patrick is starting to get overtaken, with the likes of Travis Konency proving himself at the highest level as a 20-goal scorer and guys like Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee knocking on the door. It’s no secret that the Flyers need more from Patrick, and hopefully the addition of Hayes takes some pressure off Patrick and helps him develop more in his third year.

The big jump from year one to year two just didn’t happen for Patrick, and his numbers were pretty similar across the board. His shooting percentage saw an uptick from 10.2% to 11.3% (good), but he also shot less (bad) and didn’t really take advantage. The second-year forward also didn’t take advantage of his time manning the Flyers’ second power play unit, registering just one goal and one assist for the year.

Possession metrics

Season Age GP TOI CF% CF% rel FF% FF% rel oiGF oiSH% oiGA oiSV% PDO oZS% dZS%
Season Age GP TOI CF% CF% rel FF% FF% rel oiGF oiSH% oiGA oiSV% PDO oZS% dZS%
2017-18 19 73 860.7 48.9 -0.2 49.3 -0.4 33 7.2 29 93.7 100.9 53.9 46.1
2018-19 20 72 956.2 46.8 -2.2 46.5 -3.2 40 9 41 92.3 101.4 47.3 52.7
Via Hockeyreference

But while he’s been underwhelming since arriving in Philadelphia, Patrick still has all the tools to develop into an impact NHL player. He’s given us glimpses of his ability in the past, but it’s been in small doses and few and far between. Some of that is on Patrick not producing given opportunity, but he’s also been the victim of a bad coaching staff for his first two NHL seasons.

It’s been no secret that the Flyers’ previous coaching staff struggled with lineup decisions, often icing an inferior lineup on a nightly basis. Case in point being Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise, Andrew MacDonald, and Brandon Manning over the years just to name a few cases. The second part of that struggle was who played where and with who. Patrick is a prime example, as shown in the exercise below.

Most common linemates

Linemate TOI CF% GF% xGF%
Linemate TOI CF% GF% xGF%
Player A 72.49 60.74 60 53.08
Player B 189.52 40.96 56.25 47.56
Player C 148.19 48.39 40 46.77
Player D 128.46 46 28.57 39.94
Via NaturalStatTrick

Player A is Oskar Lindblom, Player B is Wayne Simmonds, Player C is Jakub Voracek, and Player D is James van Riemsdyk.

Perhaps part of the reason that Patrick struggled to take a step in year two was that he was busy being hemmed in his own zone with a 5-on-5 cog like Simmonds. While their goal-based metrics weren’t as bad as their straight Corsi, more of that could be contributed to luck when viewing their xGF%. Simmonds was Patrick’s most common linemate prior to his trade to Nashville, where he largely flopped.

Patrick’s other common linemates produced far superior results, with the most successful being his pairing with Lindblom. That duo enjoyed success early on, but was broken apart by then-coach Dave Hakstol after a pair of poor outings because young players can’t possibly work through things together and then succeed. Instead he kept Patrick hemmed to a declining player for most of the season and wasted Patrick in his own zone chasing the puck all the time.

Not only that, but Patrick started more of his shifts in the defensive zone in 2018-19, which is odd considering that most young centers struggle most in their own zone to start their careers (with Sean Couturier being an obvious outlier). Not only did Patrick get stuck with a slug, he got stuck trying to carry the slug a full 200 feet.

The good news is that Patrick and Lindblom will be together almost by default on the third line to begin 2019-20, and should be given a longer leash given that the Flyers’ top six is pretty set in stone for the most part. Also helping Patrick realize his potential could be a very fun second winger for him in the form of a Frost or Farabee. A trio like that would sure be fun to watch, and give the Flyers a potentially potent third line, and one that would be a great shot at finally unleashing Patrick’s potential.

Though Patrick has failed to impress since the Flyers made him the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, he has his best chance yet ahead of him to prove and solidify himself as an impact NHL forward and a key piece of the future for the franchise.

Don’t give up on him just yet.

Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2019 Top 25 Under 25: