The Philadelphia Flyers are right in the thick of the playoff race, currently tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division (tiebreaker has them in the first wild card spot), a good change of pace from missing the postseason completely a year ago.
Although they enjoyed a 10-game winning streak last season, they failed to make the playoffs, eventually making the best out of the situation.
The new way the league conducted the draft lottery, meant each team that did not make playoffs had an actual opportunity to land the first overall pick. Also, the top three picks were going to be drawn, possibly creating all sorts of chaos.
Flyers land Patrick
Chaos is exactly what happened, as the New Jersey Devils, Flyers, and Dallas Stars ended up with the top three picks in the draft, even though none finished in the bottom three of the league.
After the Devils took Nico Hischier with the first pick, the Flyers selected power forward prospect Nolan Patrick next.
Patrick spent most of his draft season as the consensus top-ranked player, but a shoulder injury limited him to just 33 games while playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League.
In all fairness, he made the most of the few games he played, registering 46 points (20 G, 26 A) in those contests, but it was a far cry from the 102 he put up a season ago during the 2015/16 campaign.
With being the second overall selection, the 6’2” power forward from Winnipeg became the highest Flyer drafted since James Van Riemsdyk also went second overall in 2007.
While most projected Patrick to be a solid contributor at the next level, no one really put him in the same category as the two previous first overall picks, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.
That being said, Patrick still made the Flyers out of training camp, and after a slow start to his season, he is starting to turn the corner and show off the skill set that put him in the running to be the first overall pick.
Patrick played in 40-games pre-All Star game, and just registered nine points (3 G, 6 A). He posted just a 6.3 shooting-percentage (SH%) and averaged just 12:14 of ice-time per game.
His 5v5 metrics weren’t much better, and Patrick was eventually relegated to a bottom-six role with the Flyers.
It wasn’t really surprising to see Patrick struggle, as for every McDavid and Matthews that breaks into the league as teenagers and succeed, there are others who take more time before they can make an impact.
The Flyers put faith in Patrick and continued to play him, and since the All-Star break, he has looked like a different player, one who was taken second overall.
Earning more playing time, Patrick has registered nearly twice as many points in far fewer games in the second half of the season. After getting an assist on Oskar Lindblom’s goal against the New York Rangers Thursday night, Patrick now has 16 points (7 G, 9 A) in 26 games.
Patrick is playing top-6 minutes at 5v5, and with the increased ice-time, he is producing a higher scoring rate than he did during the first half of the season. His SH% has taken a step back, but he is shooting more and getting more scoring opportunities, helping increase his goal output.
He is also setting up his teammates more, posting the fourth-best assist rate on the team since the All-Star break, impressive since the Flyers have two of the best playmakers in the league, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
Here, Patrick, while in front of the net in the middle of traffic, is still able to complete a no-look, in between the legs pass to Voracek, who buries it for a power-play marker.
He is also driving puck possession better than he did in the first half while starting less of his shifts in the offensive zone (51.31% in the second half, compared to 54.72% in first). Compared to his teammates, Patrick has done better at driving action towards the opponents, as his Corsi-For percentage (CF%) is the best among the team’s regulars in the second half.
The Flyers also have a 3.8% better CF%, and a 16.43 high-danger chances for percentage (HDCF%) when Patrick is on the ice than when he isn’t (also known as ‘relative’ percentages). Simply put, Philadelphia is a better team when Patrick is on the ice in the second half than when he isn’t.
And isn’t that all you can ask for from the second overall pick?
How do you judge Patrick’s play this season? Where does he rank among the others in his draft class? Let us know in the comment section below.