This should be a nice pick-me-up for the Flyers as they look to build upon consecutive wins over Colorado and Detroit on Saturday and Monday, respectively.
Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, joined his Flyers teammates on the ice at practice on Wednesday, immediately igniting the hopes of the Orange & Black Twitterverse:
Nolan Patrick joins the #Flyers for practice today.
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) February 5, 2020
Dave also noted that Nolan Patrick was in the same white jersey as Nic Aube-Kubel, Michael Raffl, and Connor Bunnaman, indicating a likelihood that Patrick’s been cleared for contact. While that doesn’t mean he’s anywhere near game-ready, it’s a nice development for a player who could’ve opted to shut it down for the remainder of the season. Moments like this one had people over the moon:
Nolan Patrick through the legs to James van Riemsdyk. pic.twitter.com/nt3xines5i
— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) February 5, 2020
But, it’s important to keep perspective:
I would, however, remind excited fans that he didn't have a training camp, hasn't played in a game since last April, and hasn't practiced in full with the team once this year.
This is an awesome sign. Don't go penciling him back into the lineup just yet though.
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) February 5, 2020
This is a point that cannot be overstated. Some have already jumped to the conclusion that Patrick will be back shortly and head coach Alain Vigneault will slot him into the 3C, allowing for captain Claude Giroux to slide back out to the wing.
In the interest of transparency, here are some thoughts I posited just under a month ago when it was announced that GM Chuck Fletcher would update the media on Nolan Patrick’s status:
Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher will meet with the media Tuesday morning and is expected to give an update on Nolan Patrick. In talking to a few people around the team, I don’t expect it to be a positive update, though no one was 100% sure. If you recall, prior to the season getting underway, I mentioned that there was a chance that Nolan Patrick’s migraine disorder could prevent him from taking the ice in a meaningful capacity this season. While he’s been working with skills coach Angelo Ricci, there hasn’t been much in the way of a meaningful update on Patrick returning to full-team practice or contact drills. I do wonder if he’s looking at the time that he’s missed, the time it would take to get up to NHL conditioning, all while hoping to avoid a relapse or setback, and wonders whether it’s even worth trying to get back for the end of the season. There have been rumblings over the past year or so from within the organization about Patrick’s desire or lack thereof to be great.
Let’s break that down a bit. I care more about Nolan Patrick the human being getting his health back and finding some sort of preventative treatment for his migraine disorder than worrying about when Nolan Patrick the hockey player returns to the ice. Migraines run in my family. They’re absolutely devastating and when they hit can be entirely unpredictable.
All of that said, it’s important to note that his return to practice isn’t the same thing as him being featured game in and game out in AV’s lineup. Major credit goes to Nolan Patrick for keeping his routine conditioning up when he could’ve just as easily walked away from the ice for the remainder of the season. High marks also go to Angelo Ricci for working with Patrick throughout his absence. That said, there is a distinct difference between practice shape and game shape.
The working thought here is that it will likely take at least a few weeks to get Nolan Patrick back into game shape, including avoiding any major relapses or setbacks with migraines. One would also have to assume there will be a rehab stint of at least a couple of weeks with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms before he returns to game action.
The questions about Patrick’s internal motor appear to have been answered, at least in part. Now we need to see if his body is able to meet the demands of playing again consistently at the NHL level. If he were to have a setback, would he work even harder to get back for the stretch run and a potential playoff run? Among the many words of caution I’d give to fans is to temper expectations if and when Patrick returns to the lineup. This is a guy who’s averaged 30.5 points in 72.5 games per season. This was supposed to be the season he’d take that next major step in his development like Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom did, prior to the latter’s cancer diagnosis. He’s unlikely to be a consistent difference-maker for the team, but his netfront presence would be an enormous boon for the Flyers’ struggling power play.
Regardless of what the future holds for him this season, it’s nice to see him back on the ice.
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