Nolan Patrick, the Flyers center who missed the entire season because of a migraine disorder, is being counted on to play “at some point” during 2020-21, general manager Chuck Fletcher said.
“Nolan is feeling better. He’s skating. He’s working out. He’s golfing,” Fletcher said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. “He’s living mostly a normal life. I think he’s made a lot of progress since March. Until we get him back and get in a contact situation, it’s hard to know exactly when he’ll be ready to go, but he continues to improve … and I continue to be optimistic.
“And, yes, I’m counting on him playing at some point in 2020-21," Fletcher said. “We don’t even know when we’re going to start the 2020-21 season, and time is certainly on his side in that regard.”
The league has tentatively set Dec. 1 as the starting date, but it is expected to be begin even later.
Last year, Fletcher said doctors didn’t believe Patrick’s migraines were related to the concussion he suffered late in the 2018-19 season, forcing him to miss the last two games. On Thursday, Fletcher said there are “lots of different opinions and I don’t even know how to answer that. Everything could be connected."
Fletcher said it’s been a “tough go for the young man and he continues to get better and that’s the good thing, and at this stage, it certainly looks like he’s going to get his quality of life back and hopefully he’ll be able to come back and play hockey for us. He’s a real important part. I think you saw in the playoffs, the ability to have three quality centermen that can play 200 feet and produce offensively is incredibly important, and he’s a part of that future for us.”
Third-line center Derek Grant, a prospective unrestricted free agent, had no goals in 15 postseason games — he was benched in Game 7 against the Islanders — and likely won’t be re-signed.
Patrick is a restricted free agent. “We’ll have to work through that with his agent,” Fletcher said.
Patrick, who will turn 22 on Sept. 19, was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft. He had 13 goals in each of his first two seasons and was going to be dropped from the No. 2 to No. 3 center spot this season, behind Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes.
In the summer of 2019, Patrick let the Flyers know he was having headaches, and that is one of the reasons they were extra aggressive in signing Hayes.
Last year, Patrick was diagnosed after consultation with the Flyers' medical staff and specialist Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher from the University of Michigan. Fletcher has said Patrick had a history of migraines when he was younger and they were a family issue as well.