The buzz for Wednesday night’s rookie game between the Flyers and New York Islanders was created by the presence of center Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in the June draft.
Patrick didn’t disappoint, setting up several quality chances with his speed and passing ability — and just missing the game-winning goal in overtime.
But it was the Flyers’ goal-scoring defensemen and slick-passing center Mikhail Vorobyov who were in the spotlight in their 4-3 overtime loss at the percolating Wells Fargo Center.
The Islanders tied it with two goals in the final 4 minutes, 58 seconds of regulation, then won it in overtime on a goal by Mitchell Vande Sompel after Patrick fired a shot off the post down the other end.
Earlier in the OT, Isles goalie Mitch Gillam made three great saves on Connor Bunnaman, including one on a penalty shot. Bunnaman was one of Patrick’s linemates.
Patrick had abdominal surgery in June and he was playing his first game since March, when he was in juniors. He said he had no ill effects in his debut Wednesday.
“First shift, I felt great,” Patrick said. “I thought I had a good start and kept it rolling for most of the game. I had a lot of good chances, so I felt good. My legs felt really good tonight.”
Defensemen James de Haas, Travis Sanheim, and Mark Friedman scored the Flyers’ goals.
Friedman, 21, a third-round selection in the 2014 draft, had a solid two-way game and gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead by scoring from the right circle with 15 minutes left in the second period.
“There’s no question he has NHL speed,” said Phantoms coach Scott Gordon, who coached the Flyers rookies.
Friedman took a feed from Vorobyov, who skated behind the net and threaded a perfect pass to the right side. Vorobyov, a fourth-round selection in the 2015 draft, had two primary assists. The 20-year-old Russian led all players with 10 assists during the 2016-17 World Junior Championships, and he played 44 games in Russia’s KHL last season before the Flyers signed him to an entry-level contract in April.
“You can see his skill level; he’s going to make plays,” said Gordon, who will likely have Vorobyov in Lehigh Valley. “He’s a big body, and to have a guy with that size and skill, especially up the middle, is going to be a nice option for us.”
As for the defense, the Flyers have two openings this season, and Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Sanheim, and Phil Myers, are the main contenders. Myers is considered the biggest long shot of that group because he has yet to play on the pro level and will probably go the AHL’s Phantoms.
Myers left Wednesday’s game with an undisclosed lower-body injury in the second period.
Friedman starred at Bowling Green last season and is also expected to play his first full season in Lehigh Valley.
But he opened eyes with a solid effort Wednesday. He gives the Flyers’ already-loaded defensive pipeline even more depth.
Sanheim, cheating up on defense, gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead with 3:44 left in the first period. From behind the goal line, he flipped the puck off an Islanders players’ skate in front of the net, and it caromed past goalie Eamon McAdam, a Doylestown native who once played at Penn State.
The Flyers had 11 teenagers in their lineup, including Patrick, who turns 19 on Tuesday.
Alex Lyon stopped 13 of 14 shots as he played the first half of the game before being replaced by Carter Hart. … Patrick asked if at any point he felt healthier than last year. “Yeah, first shift, when I skated five feet and wasn’t tired,” he cracked….The Isles’ John Stevens, the son of the former Flyers coach of the same name who now directs the Kings, scored a first-period goal for the Isles. … Morin produced one of the crowd’s loudest roars when he wrestled Yannick Turcotte to the ice in the second period. … Right winger Matt Gaudreau, a South Jersey native and brother of Calgary star Johnny, was in the Isles’ lineup.