Normally when discussing the two or three prospects each year who have a chance at being selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft, the comparisons look at their offensive totals over the past season, trying to compare the strength of the leagues those players competed in and breaking down their offence to see which situations they’re thriving in.
That strategy isn’t applicable to Nolan Patrick’s situation, as multiple long-term injuries limited him to just 33 regular-season games. The captain was unable to participate in his Brandon Wheat Kings’ playoff run, one limited to just four games as they were swept in the first round of the WHL playoffs. He was also held out of World Junior Championship action, preventing him from making a final impression while competing against his international peers.
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Weight: 198 lbs.
What you can do is look back to the 2015-16 season when Patrick had a rare healthy campaign at 16 years of age. After two years with two separate instances of a broken collarbone, he posted 41 goals and 61 assists over the 72-game schedule, finishing just four points back of over-ager Jayce Hawryluk for the team lead. The two members shared the playoff scoring title that year, each with 30 points in 21 games, and Patrick having more goals on the way to a WHL championship. For his efforts, both in having the top offensive total and matching up against the opposition’s top players, he was named the playoff MVP.
He developed a sports hernia in the WHL Final versus the Seattle Thunderbirds, and was unable to perform at his top level in the Memorial Cup tournament, with just one point in three round-robin games. The injury required surgery and his recovery carried over to the first few months of the new season, preventing him from getting up to speed in his draft year.
As a result, his point-per-game rate fell slightly from the 1.42 it was in a stellar 2015-16 campaign to 1.39. The drop was even more pronounced at five-on-five, falling from 0.93 to 0.79.
With Patrick, he has more to offer than just offence. He’s a multi-dimensional option who plays the roles of scorer, playmaker, or shutdown centreman. He has great awareness on the ice to be in the proper position, whether in the offensive or defensive end, and the vision to pick out teammates who get themselves into scoring areas.
Those abilities allow him to play his game without a lot of wasted effort. He looks for the best available spot to work from on the ice, rather than trying to force his way into a specific area, which can lead to him looking uninvolved on the ice or not putting in the effort at times.
“That’s the thing about Nolan: he has an eight-point night and people don’t notice him,” stated Neil Chow, his former Bantam AAA coach, in a conversation with Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford.
That’s not to say he shies away from the physical aspect of the game. He will complete his checks if the situation calls for it, can be aggressive on the forecheck, and has even been known to drop the gloves a few times.
He’s not going to impress with an end-to-end rush like Connor McDavid, and may not have the top-end offensive finish to score 40 goals like Auston Matthews, but he does just about everything well; a jack-of-all-trades with few areas of weakness.
Future Considerations (May 2017)
Have no doubt, this kid is top of the class. After a year full of adversity, including a battle with injuries and a depleted supporting cast, Patrick flourished as a focal player who played all situations and captained a team at 18. He doesn’t have the jaw-dropping flash of a lot of superstar players but make no mistake, his ability to manage a shift and outthink his opponents will make him a strong two-way center in the league for a long time.”
Future Considerations: 1st
Central Scouting service: 1st (North American skaters)
Patrick has maintained his top ranking throughout the season despite the pushes from some of the other top prospects. Most services remain confident that his injury issues were merely bad luck, and his true calibre is closer to his 16-year-old performance than this year’s showing.
Patrick isn’t really on the Montreal Canadiens’ radar, as they don’t hold a pick until late in the first round. With Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu reported to be potentially in play, the Habs could move up in the first round, but the chance for the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers to draft a top-two prospect probably trumps their desire to make that type of trade.
It will be interesting to see if Patrick’s top ranking translates to a first-overall selection or if the off year and a history of health concerns cause him to drop a few slots. There are some other great talents available this year, and the chance for a bit of an upset when the draft gets under way.