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Could Nolan Patrick be the key to the Flyers taking the next step?

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Nolan Patrick is ready to get back into action and take that next step with the Flyers.

Arizona Coyotes v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Philadelphia Flyers hockey is back, and so is Nolan Patrick.

The 2017 second-overall pick is ready to roll after missing last season due to a migraine disorder. Patrick has already been labeled a bust by some after two 30-point seasons, but he showed flashes of potential throughout both of those seasons. That potential continued to show in Training Camp, which culminated with an intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday night.

Patrick scored a goal in the scrimmage, which some could label as “just a tap-in goal.” However, he was one of the more noticeable players throughout the evening as he was up on his skates and confident with the puck. He wasn’t afraid to go into the corners or in front of the net.

Nolan Patrick is back, folks, and if he is anything near the Nolan Patrick that was promised leading up to the 2017 NHL draft, he could be the key to the Flyers taking the next step.

Unfortunately, the Flyers being ready to take that next step seems like groundhog’s day at this point. We were given false promises throughout the mid-2010s of a transition period, and heading into the 2018-19 season, with the Flyers finally spending money in free agency and having their prospects at the NHL level, everything fell flat.

But the Flyers did take that next step last season. They went on fire to close out the season as the best team in the league from January 8th onward, but they were also the second-best team in the league from November 1st onward. A lot of people remember that January 8th date, but the Flyers were doing their thing more than two months prior to that. The Flyers made the playoffs, finally won a playoff round for the first time since 2012, but were beaten in seven games by the Islanders.

Okay, enough of that, let’s get back to the point here: Nolan Patrick is back.

Patrick could be the key piece to take the Flyers to the next step. He is still just 22 years old and has plenty of room for growth. The Flyers were already a pretty deep team last season and the return of Patrick – as well as the incredible return of Oskar Lindblom – just makes them that much deeper.

With expectations lowered for Patrick, if he is back to a spot where he can play regularly, he will have a much easier path to success. In his first two years, there were hopes that Patrick would start as the third-line center and slowly (or quickly) work his way up.

Now, due to the Flyers’ depth up and down the lineup, Patrick is penciled in as the third-line center. Not only that, but he has two high-quality linemates in James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek.

That trio has the potential to be pretty good, especially if they are deployed correctly. They should be able to play sheltered minutes with two strong lines ahead of them, which will open up the ice and create mismatches. Teams will have to focus on stopping Sean Couturier and his two young wingers on the top line and Claude Giroux with Kevin Hayes and Joel Farabee on the second line, leaving the third line to have a pretty favorable matchup.

The Flyers’ lines for the season opener show their immense forward depth and that is in large part due to Patrick. Having Patrick as the third-line center allows Scott Laughton to drop down to the fourth line with Michael Raffl and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. That is a fourth line that will forecheck the hell out of the opposition, and it can take one some of the third-line duties if needed. If Patrick is able to perform closer to what was advertised in 2017 than how he played during his first two years, the Flyers could have three very dangerous lines and a fourth line that could be a third line on most teams.

Patrick is in a good spot to succeed this season. It’s already great to see him back on the ice with his teammates, and it’s going to be even better to see him back in regular-season action.

So, could Nolan Patrick be the key to the Flyers taking the next step? I think so. While Patrick may not be the definitive key, he certainly helps unlock a lot of potential in the lineup.

I’m viewing this as a clean slate for Patrick. His first two seasons are still in the back of my mind and I am a bit wary, but he has a lot less on his shoulders now given the team around him. He dealt with head injuries in the past, but if he’s feeling good and ready to go, I’m fully behind him.

It is still to be determined if Patrick can be the key to take the Flyers to the next step. However, I fully believe that this Flyers team around Patrick is the key to taking him to the next level.