The Flyers’ top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek have been world beaters ever since the season started. While it is great to have one of the best first lines in the league it means nothing without depth, which we saw a lack of while Nolan Patrick was out with an upper-body injury.
You may ask yourself, how important is a 19-year-old with only four points in his first 11 career NHL games?
The answer is extremely important.
The Flyers won three and lost six games in Patrick’s nine game absence early this season.
Patrick is only averaging 12:12 in time on ice and winning less than half of his faceoffs but his hockey IQ is off the charts and he makes a difference when he is on the ice. Patrick has two goals and two assists on the season, which is less than you would expect from a second overall pick, but the Flyers don’t need Patrick to score 60 points as a rookie. They need him to learn the system and get acclimated to the NHL, especially after missing a majority of the season last year with an injury.
Dave Hakstol has been putting Patrick in spots to succeed, he is averaging 1:44 on the power play per game and is starting in the offensive zone 55% of the time. While Patrick is afforded these opportunities to succeed in the offensive zone, he does not forgo his defensive responsibilities.
In today’s NHL, a center needs to be as good defensively as he is offensively to make it, and Patrick is showing he has what it takes at the ripe age of 19. He has been paired with less than ideal line-mates at times, such as Dale Weise and Jordan Weal who has not had a great start to the season. We have seen him thrive with Travis Konecny whose speed complements Patrick’s IQ.
After missing nine games with what was presumably a concussion, Patrick has slowly been worked his way back into the lineup and he will center the second line with Weal and Simmonds for the time being after two games back. He was able to pick up his second goal of the year mid line change while on the ice with Giroux and Voracek, it was a slick backhand which showed the offensive capabilities that Patrick has.
While Patrick isn’t tearing up the rookie scoring race like Clayton Keller or Nico Hischier, he’s shown his worth on the ice already. There was an obvious hole in the middle of the lineup while Patrick was out but with him back in the lineup and a fully healthy offense, I would expect Patrick to break out of his shell and start to hit his stride as the season moves on.