Flyers rookie center Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 overall selection in last June’s draft, started slowly this season because of the after-effects of core-muscle surgery. That was followed by a concussion that caused him to miss nine games and took him out of his rhythm.
But Patrick regrouped, regained his speed, looked more comfortable handling the puck, and was a different player in the second half of the season.
He finished with 13 goals, 30 points and a plus-1 rating in 73 games. Patrick had two goals in his first 35 games, and 11 goals in his last 38 games.
“I think it was pretty noticeable when I got confident, I was a different player out there,” Patrick said at a season-ending news conference Wednesday at their training facility in Voorhees. “It was a big part of my game.”
Patrick, 19, had a goal and an assist and was one of the Flyers’ better players in their six-game playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
“You learn how the game’s played, the speed’s different,” he said of the postseason. “A disappointing way to end, but we’ll be back there next year.”
Down the road, center Sean Couturier said, Patrick will be one of the players the Flyers are built around.
“He’s another one of the guys who is going to take over this team eventually and lead us,” Couturier said. “He’ got a lot of talent, he’s smart, and he’s really mature for his age — just the way he plays, the way he handles himself on and off the ice.”
The Flyers blew a 4-2 lead late in the second period of Game 6 against visiting Pittsburgh. They lost, 8-5, and were eliminated.
Patrick said he tries not to think about that game, “but it’s something that bothers you. I think a lot of the series was us beating ourselves; it wasn’t anything they were doing. It’s pretty frustrating when you lose that way.”
Patrick, 19, had surgery after his previous two seasons. Now he’s 100 percent healthy and looking forward to getting in better shape this summer.
“It’s exciting. First time I can get after it,” he said. “It’s going to be a big summer for me. I’m not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I ‘m looking to take big steps here.”
Added the 6-foot-2, 198-pound Patrick: “I’m just excited to be able to move. I couldn’t even run last summer. I only had about a month last summer to train, so I’m really excited to take a couple weeks off and then get after it.”
He said he wants to work on improving his shot and get stronger.
“My shot needs to get a lot better, so that’s something I’m going to focus on a lot,” he said, adding he will work with a skills coach.
Has he set any goals for next season, such as 20 goals and 50 points?
“No, I’ve never been a guy to really set numbers,” he said. “My first goal when I got here was to make the team, and after I did that I was just trying to improve and trying to be an impact player. It took me a little longer than I would have hoped to get that, but you’ve got to earn everything around here and it’s a good league. I’m going to keep trying to improve and take another step.”
The loss to the Penguins left him with a bad taste.
“I don’t think anyone’s ever satisfied when you lose [like] we did,” he said. “….I think I’m harder on myself than anyone, so I know what I need to do to improve and get better to help this team win.”
Patrick spent a lot of time on a line with rookie Oskar Lindblom and Jake Voracek. He called Voracek “one of the best playmakers in the league.”
He was asked about possibly playing alongside left winger Lindblom and growing together in the future.
“It’s early in both our careers, and I don’t think anyone’s worried about the Patrick-Lindblom tandem just yet,” he deadpanned in his best Steven Wright delivery. “I think we’ve both got to improve before any of that gets talked about.”