In his first NHL season, the Flyers Nolan Patrick has certainly experienced his share of adversity. But despite suffering through an injury and a current losing streak, the 19-year-old center is thoroughly enjoying competing against the top players in the world.
“It’s been fun,” Patrick said after practice Friday. “It’s a lot different than junior [hockey] and I expected it to be different.”
He didn’t expect the concussion, suffered Oct. 24 against Anaheim, that sidelined Patrick for nine games. And he certainly didn’t envision the Flyers’ nine-game losing streak as they prepare to host the surging Boston Bruins in at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.
“My main focus is to get a win and get out of this slump,” Patrick said.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Patrick has good size. But it’s what he carries above the ears that has impressed his teammates the most.
“I really like his hockey IQ, and he seems like he is older than he is to me,” said linemate Wayne Simmonds. “He keeps a level head and you don’t see him get too emotional. I think that is a good thing as a young kid because you come into this league and sometimes when a team has a tough stretch like we are now, he takes it all in stride, so that is important.”
As the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL draft, Patrick would seem to face to justify his high selection. He insisted that he never involves himself in the hype.
“I don’t read any articles you guys put out,” he said. “So I don’t look into that stuff much.”
In 16 games, Patrick has two goals, four assists, and a zero plus-minus rating. All of his points except for one assist have been recorded at even strength.
Patrick is considered a potential cornerstone player, and everybody wants to gauge his progress. But when coach Dave Hakstol was asked if he has seen a jump in Patrick’s play, the third-year coach was cautious in his evaluation.
“I don’t know about a jump, but I have seen progression,” Hakstol said.
Then he elaborated.
“I don’t think you can expect to see a jump,” Hakstol said. “The league is too hard, and the league continues to get better and harder as you go through the years. You just want a steady push.”
That’s fine with Patrick, who certainly is not awed by his surroundings.
The biggest adjustment for any player is to get used to the speed of the game. It’s something Patrick has done in, well, a speedy manner.
“It probably took one to two games to get used to the speed,” Patrick said. “You just have to move the puck quicker, and everybody is faster out there. So you have to stay with your check and know where he is — that is probably the main thing.”
The task for Patrick and the Flyers (8-10-7) won’t get any easier when they face Boston (11-8-4). The Bruins have won five of six, including Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over a Tampa Bay team that entered Friday with the most points in the NHL.
Patrick said he has plenty to work on, but he has a quiet confidence that he will eventually solve the NHL puzzle.
“I have to play with more pace,” he said. “That is my main thing, just play fast.”
Patrick said his veteran teammates have done a great job helping him adjust to the NHL.
“We have a good group of guys,” Patrick said. “They have made the transition easy.”
Little is easy in the NHL, but Patrick hasn’t listened to the outside noise as he continues to make a steady push during a rookie season that has already provided its share of obstacles.