The Flyers will likely pursue a No. 2 center in the offseason, which would move Nolan Patrick down to the No. 3 spot.
Patrick, in his second season, finished with 13 goals, the same number as in his rookie year, and just 31 points.
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General manager Chuck Fletcher said it was a fair question when asked if he thought Patrick could be the No. 2 center next season.
“Nolan has the capability of being a No. 2 center man,” he said at his end-of-season news conference Monday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. “Whether it’s next year, time will tell. It’s hard to project with young players. He’s just 20 years old.”
Brock Nelson (25 goals), Matt Duchene (31), and Kevin Hayes (19) are among the unrestricted free agents the Flyers could pursue.
Most of the successful teams in the league have No. 1 and No. 2 centers who are top point producers, interim coach Scott Gordon said.
“What I like about Nolan is he’s got a pretty good game outside of points,” Fletcher said. “What I mean about that is he is a pretty smart player, defensively. He’s responsible, he works really hard. I think there’s attributes there where he can help a team even when he’s not producing.”
Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, had just one goal in his last 21 games.
“There’s certain things he needs to work on, like he needs to improve his shot,” Fletcher said. “I think he’s a quality playmaker. He comes through the middle of the ice with speed. He’s one of the few players on our team, when he’s on his game, he’s coming through the middle of the ice. He’s backing people off and he can make plays.”
Fletcher said Patrick “like every young player, needs to continue to get stronger. I’m sure he can get a little faster and just needs to continue to mature.”
Being a full-time No. 2 center, Fletcher said, should be Patrick’s goal.
“At some point,” Fletcher said, “he will get there.”
Fletcher was critical of the defensive work of his forwards.
“I think our forwards at times are very loose with the puck,” he said. ”We lose the third guy all the time in the offensive zone. We’re giving up odd-man rushes. We’re turning pucks over. I think we put a lot of pressure on our defense at times by the way we play.”