Nolan Patrick, the second-year Flyers center who was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, is in uncharted territory – goalless over the last two months entering Thursday.
“Obviously, I had some struggles last year, but I’ve never really had struggles like this in my career,” the onetime junior-level sensation before Thursday’s game against visiting Dallas. “It weighs on you, mentally, but I’m confident I’ll get out of it. I know this will make me stronger as a player, mentally.”
After a scuffling start in 2017-18, Patrick finished strongly in the second half of his rookie season and expected it to have a carryover effect. But he entered Thursday without a goal in his last 22 games.
“It’s something you think about a lot when you’re going through a slump like that,” he said, “but I’m just trying to contribute in other ways when the puck’s not going in. Hopefully I can get out of it soon.”
Patrick, 20, who was dropped to the third line Thursday, had five goals and 11 points in his first 36 games this season. He finished last year with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 games.
He said he has leaned on veteran Dale Weise, a fellow Winnipeg native, to help keep a positive frame of mind.
“Since I got here, he’s been unbelievable to me, on and off the ice,” Patrick said. “And G [Claude Giroux] will give me tips, too.”
Patrick comes from a hockey family. His father, Steve, and his uncle, James Patrick, played a combined 27 NHL seasons.
“I talk to my dad every day and to my uncle a lot,” he said. “Obviously, they’ve been through tough stretches in their careers and they can give you advice on how they handled it. I bounce a lot of things off them.”
Patrick has twice had this season interrupted by injuries, missing three games in October and four recent games before returning Saturday.
“I liked what I saw before he got hurt,” interim coach Scott Gordon said, referring to Patrick’s second injury. “Especially the first four games, and then I think we kind of all got off the page after the Christmas break. I don’t think he’s at the same level he was in the first four games.
"Part of that is just being off for that time frame, but obviously there’s a lot of talent there and I think getting into better scoring areas and playing with a little more pace is something we’d like to see a little more of.”