Nolan Patrick hasn’t played an NHL game in over a year, and the Philadelphia Flyers have to be wondering if he was the right draft choice for them in 2017.
The Philadelphia Flyers weren’t very good in 2016-17, but they did finish ahead of 11 other teams in the standings, and so it looked like another year of picking in the “mushy middle” of the first round. Good fortune finally smiled upon the Flyers for once, however, as the proverbial ping pong balls fell in their favor and allowed them to leapfrog 10 of those 11 teams to move all the way up to the second overall selection in the 2017 draft.
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The only question was: Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick? The New Jersey Devils would have their choice, but the Flyers were happy to have whoever they didn’t select. In the end, Hischier went first, which was almost solely a result of Patrick’s injury issues while playing junior hockey. The Devils just didn’t feel comfortable making him the first overall pick. And I guess the Flyers should have been just as cautious, because things are looking very uncertain for the young center as he battles to overcome a migraine disorder and start delivering on his potential in the NHL after a pedestrian first two seasons and another that was completely wiped out by said migraines.
Nobody expected Nolan Patrick to be Eric Lindros, but hopefully he isn’t on his way to being Brett Lindros. It’s just the Flyers’ luck that they were able to get the guy who scouts agreed was the most NHL-ready player in that year’s class but have yet to see him make strides toward being a high-end producer.
Hischier hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, either, so the Devils aren’t laughing all the way to the bank. But he at least looks like he can carve out a path toward being a solid player, a road that Patrick has veered from significantly to this point. And even though Hischier might not be making the Flyers feel too bad, all they need to do is take a look at numerous players selected right after Nolan Patrick who have already made big impacts in the league.
The Dallas Stars took defenseman Miro Heiskanen with the third overall pick, and he has produced two impressive seasons already, playing over 23 minutes per night. Cale Makar, another defenseman, went fourth to the Colorado Avalanche. And though he took longer to arrive, Makar instantly established himself as a dynamic offensive D-man. He has a good shot to capture the Calder Trophy for his 50-point rookie season this year.
You can’t blame the Flyers too much for not taking either Heiskanen or Makar once you consider that they had drafted a defenseman in the first round in three of the four years immediately before Patrick. But the player that really hurts here is Elias Pettersson, taken fifth by Vancouver. The electric forward already has a Calder Trophy and a pair of 66-point seasons on his resume. And that sure would have looked nice in Orange and Black.
Hardly anyone had the foresight to suggest that the Flyers should have avoided Patrick and taken any of these players at #2. But the fact is, they were there, and the Flyers missed out on some young players who proved themselves in the league almost immediately.
It’s almost shocking that the Flyers had success this season even though they didn’t get anything out of the man they selected with their highest draft pick in a decade. But maybe that means that Patrick can be effective when he finally does return, as he won’t be expected to do too much. Still, it’s sad that we’re already tempering expectations for a guy who will be 22 years old next season.
The ship hasn’t sailed on Nolan Patrick just yet, but the Flyers might secretly be wishing that they had bought another boat. By having Patrick fall to them with the second pick, it looks like the Flyers may have gotten lucky in the wrong year. So…I guess maybe they weren’t lucky at all.