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Nolan Patrick is back, my heart is full

The Flyers opened camp on Monday and one player made his return to the ice.

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

The few months has felt like decades since hockey has last been played. Experiencing winter weather without a terrible 1-0 slogfest win to turn my brain off to has been abnormal, but luckily for myself — and I’m sure you feel the same way — the NHL is back.

It doesn’t even stop there. The gift of the men on ice coming back into my life didn’t stop giving, as Nolan Patrick makes his way around the ice for the Philadelphia Flyers training camp.

Due to his migraine disorder diagnosis, Patrick has not played a professional game of hockey since April 4, 2019. A lot of that absence was because of the league-wide COVID shutdown in the spring, as the young center was back skating with his teammates last February, just before the pandemic hit.

He wasn’t cleared for any contact then but it appears that after jumping through some hoops and following the right medical protocol, the 22-year-old is cleared for contact. Despite it being his first real practice in a while, Patrick was not shying away from being physical on the ice during the first day of Flyers camp. Attempting to split the defense on a drill and instead getting crunched, is a fairly good sign of returning to normal.

Patrick made it exceedingly clear that he feels good during this pre-season camp, and is just taking it day-by-day, hoping that he will be able to be back on the ice when the puck drops on Jan. 13 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

If not, we can always be confident that he feels fine and is back to normal.

Nolan “yup” Patrick is going to steadily work his way through this camp and I cannot contain my excitement to see whether he will be on the ice against the Penguins. He might not ever develop into the Jonathan Toews lite that some were projecting on his draft night, but he’s still a forward that’s good enough to hang around when he’s healthy. Depth, baby, depth.

I can’t determine exactly what kind of contribution Patrick can make in the future and that’s the kind of special little twinkle that we can dream on. Most players aren’t even into their first full season at his age and are dragging their feet around an AHL rink, but with almost 150 NHL games played, his development just stopped at a sudden jolt.

That’s the thing that makes me more excited than anything. If he can return to full health, keeping control of his diagnosis, then he has the outlook of someone just ready to burst into the NHL and bring back some of that joy we felt. He might not be the perfect player, but there is immense time left in his career to develop more into the type of player people thought he could become.

Even just to add a personal note, there is no way any fan can have a reason to dislike Patrick for his production. Like, c’mon, the dude had a higher 5-on-5 point production rate his last season than Anze Kopitar, Bo Horvat, Kevin Fiala, Anthony Beauvillier, Andrei Svechnikov, and Charlie Coyle, just to name a few established NHL players at the top of their teams.

I can finally whisper those four words that I have been longing for, wishing to make the sound come through my throat and on to my lips with the ease of breath. Nolan Patrick is back.