Philadelphia Flyers: Can Nolan Patrick put it all together in Vegas?

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Flyers drafted Nolan Patrick second overall in the 2017 NHL Draft to become their center of the future.

With the majority of the team’s “star” forwards either 25 or older, Patrick presented a 19-year-old glimpse into the future for a day where players like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds no longer called the Wells Fargo Center their home ice.

While some of that proved to be true, as Simmonds was traded to Nashville midway through the 2018-19 season, Patrick was ultimately outlasted in South Philly by both Giroux and Vorachek, as he was shipped out of town alongside Philippe Myers in a three-team deal that brought Ryan Ellis to the East Division for the first time in his decade-long NHL career.

Will it work? Could the bright lights and dry air of Las Vegas be the perfect concoction to get Patrick’s career back on track, or will his third-season slump travel with him to the Pacific Time Zone and become the Golden Knights’ problem? Those results could define his career arc moving forward.

Can Nolan Patrick put it all together away from the Philadelphia Flyers?

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Nolan Patrick would not be a member of the Vegas Golden Knights if they were participants in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Is that assertion a tad harsh? Maybe so. Maybe Vegas’ GM, Kelly McCrimmon, has maintained a love affair with Patrick as a prospect since their shared time with the Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League and simply wanted to have a chance to get his career back on track? It’s natural to become a fan of players you watch often, and it’s clear McCrimmon is a fan of Patrick’s game, as his initial comments on the topic suggest.

But could you imagine the Golden Knights actually using one of their 10 or 11 protections on a player like Patrick at this phase of his career? Especially when their top-six forwards would all be borderline protection locks heading into an expansion draft.

That is, after all, why the Nashville Predators opted to reroute Patrick to Vegas, as he would have had to be protected heading into the expansion draft, whereas Cody Glass, himself a top-10 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, does not, considering he hasn’t played the requisite number of games to be eligible for selection.

So with that in mind, landing Patrick likely isn’t because Vegas believe him to be an instant top-liner or even their center of the future. No, all they believed was that he’d likely have a better NHL career than Glass, who only has 22 points in 66 games and only averaged 13:51 ATOI during his two-year tenure in Vegas.

Now granted, that sort of sounds disparaging to Patrick’s play both now and moving forward, but it really isn’t meant to be. If anything, having less pressure to perform may be just what the doctor ordered to get his career back on track regardless of how his restricted free agency period shakes out.

Pair Patrick up with a solid shooter like Mattias Janmark and give him the freedom to attack the net outside of the self-imposed rigidity of Alain Vigneault‘s offensive system, and there’s little reason to believe he couldn’t be a solid third-line center when the Golen Knights’ big six need a break.

Heck, even if Patrick just cements himself as Vegas’ fourth-string center, that’s more than the Golden Knights got from Glass in 2021 and thus, provides more value both now and moving forward.

Next. Rumors: Seattle could reroute Vladimir Tarasenko. dark

Will Nolan Patrick ever become a star at the NHL level? Will the Philadelphia Flyers regret trading him, even if Ryan Ellis is a perfect fit for their current win-now strategy? Only time will tell, but after watching Patrick struggle in his third professional season with the Flyers, a change of scenery may be the best way to make good on his once-sky high potential.