Center Nolan Patrick returned to the ice during Day 1 of the Flyers’ training camp Monday, hoping the migraine disorder that sidelined him for the entire 2019-20 season is behind him.
So far, so good.
Patrick, 22, was one of the most noticeable players in a scrimmage in Voorhees, won by his Orange team, 2-1, over the Black.
‘I thought Nolan looked really good today,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “I’ve had a couple chats with him the last couple days. He feels good about where he is. He’s really upbeat about his energy level.”
Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft and a onetime 102-point scorer in a Western Hockey League season, was robbed by goalie Brian Elliott on a point-blank chance in the fast-paced scrimmage; he had a few other scoring opportunities and created some others.
“It’s obviously been a while since I’ve participated in everything with the team,” said the 6-foot-2, 203-pound Patrick, who is entering his third NHL season. “… It was a good day out there today.”
He added that he felt “very comfortable” on the ice.
“I see the excitement in him about being back with his teammates, about working and having fun,” Vigneault said. “I see the excitement in his teammates with him being back. In this situation, obviously, he was probably very nervous today. Anxious to get going; hasn’t played in a while. I think for him and for our team, it was a positive day, a step forward, and we’ll take it a day at a time and see how he’s doing.”
Patrick last played in an NHL game on April 2, 2019. If he plays in the Jan. 13 opener against the visiting Penguins, he will be in the lineup for the first time in 650 days.
The center didn’t want to talk about whether his headaches had gone away, or if receiving contact without ill effects will determine if he can be ready for Jan. 13.
He said it was “mentally tough” to sit out last season. “Obviously you want to be out there. It’s a tough injury that affects you mentally more than others would, but I feel good and hopefully will get back [to playing games] soon.”
Patrick passed his physical Sunday. Vigneault said he had been cleared for contact and that the center wanted to get in a few practices and scrimmages before absorbing any punishment.
If he is ready to go, Patrick will probably center wingers James van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee on the third line.
Vigneault, who is in his second season with the Flyers, has not had much of a chance to get a close look at Patrick until this camp.
“As far as getting to know him and getting to know what type of young man he is and what type of player, this is really my first introduction,” Vigneault said. “He wasn’t really around our team very much last year. I really like what I see on the ice. His demeanor and he’s got a beautiful smile.”
The Winnipeg native will take it “a day at a time,” Vigneault said. “Obviously it’s a very exciting time for him, I believe, and I’m confident he’s going to do fine.”
Patrick had 13 goals in each of his first two seasons. If healthy, that production figures to increase because he will drop down to the third line and should get better matchups than he had in his sophomore NHL season.