GM Ron Hextall: Flyers won't 'force' Nolan Patrick into lineup

NHL Draft Hockey
Nolan Patrick (right) was selected No. 2 overall by the Flyers, just after New Jersey took Nico Hischier (left) in the June draft.

Center Nolan Patrick is 100 percent healthy and can go full-bore when the Flyers start rookie camp in Voorhees on Sept. 11, general manager Ron Hextall said.

Patrick underwent abdominal surgery — his second one in a year — 10 days before the Flyers selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the June draft.

“He’s cleared and he’s good to go,” Hextall said from his new office at the Skate Zone in Voorhees earlier this week.

Even though rookies don’t have to be in camp until physicals are held Sept. 9, many are already on the ice at the team’s Voorhees practice facility. Patrick isn’t here yet because he is obligated to attend junior camp in Brandon. He has been on the ice and working out this summer and has not had any setbacks, Hextall said.

“He’ll come in when all the rookies come in,” Hextall said.

The rookies will be on the ice doing drills Sept. 11. Veteran camp will start Sept. 15, also in Voorhees. Both camps will be free to the public.

Patrick was limited to 33 games for Brandon last season — he still managed 46 points — because he was recovering from his first sports-hernia surgery. He estimated he was 60 to 75 percent healthy last season and said he would lose his breath, and energy, quickly.

With the second surgery deemed a success, the 6-foot-2, 199-pounder could be a key contributor this season.

What does he have to do to earn a spot with the Flyers?

“He’s got to do the same thing as all the other kids. He’s got to come in and show us that he can help make us a better team and that it’s the right thing for us,” Hextall said. “It’s truly that simple. We’ve got numbers. We don’t have to have him. We’ve got other kids who can play and we have veterans, so we’re in a good position with him.”

The Flyers are overloaded with centers. Because of that, veterans Jori Lehtera and Valtteri Filppula might be shifted to wing to make room for Patrick, Scott Laughton, or Mike Vecchione.

As for Patrick, Hextall said the Flyers “are not going to force him into our lineup. We’re not going to force any of these kids to be in our lineup. We certainly feel that of the group that has a chance to make our team, we’re comfortable enough that we can fill our team with those kids rather than the free-agent market. But they’ve got to earn it.”

Patrick, who will turn 19 on Sept. 19, has a chance to end up as the Flyers’ No. 2 center, behind Claude Giroux and ahead of Sean Couturier.

Hextall was asked if he would be disappointed if Patrick didn’t make the team and was sent back to Brandon.

“Absolutely not. If he needs time, he needs time,” Hextall said. “We’re going to have Nolan Patrick for the next 10, 15 years, not one day or one month or two months. We’re looking at the next 15 years and what’s best for Nolan Patrick. If it’s best to go back to Brandon, then he’ll go back to Brandon. If it’s best to stay here, he’ll stay here.

“Again, he’s got to come in and prove it. I will not be disappointed if he doesn’t make our team. I don’t have any expectations on whether he will or he won’t. He’s got to come in and show us he makes us a better team.”

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