Flyers general manager Ron Hextall revealed Friday that Nolan Patrick had abdominal surgery June 13 — 10 days before they drafted him with the second overall selection — and that he will be able to resume activities in a few weeks.
Hextall insisted that the surgery will not affect Patrick's development. He said the surgery gave him "clarity" about the 6-foot-2, 199-pound center and hinted it wouldn't prevent him from making the Flyers' roster this season.
"I actually felt better about it once we found out what the issue was and what had been bothering him all year," Hextall said in a conference call with reporters. "… For me, it provided us with clarity."
The surgery apparently was needed to repair a sports hernia that, according to Patrick, was misdiagnosed by the Brandon team doctor when he had his first sports-hernia operation last year. Patrick played for Brandon, a junior team in the Western Hockey League.
The one sports hernia was repaired by surgery, and Patrick said the other hernia was treated by medical therapy.
Patrick was limited to 33 games with Brandon last season and, despite the injury — it was "nagging him the whole year," Hextall said — managed 20 goals and 46 points. The previous year, he collected 41 goals and 102 points and then had sports-hernia surgery after the season.
"This kid's been bothered by this the entire season and actually played through it, which is a sign of how tough the kid is," Hextall said.
"I couldn't get my conditioning back to where I wanted it to be," Patrick said before the draft. "I did as much as I could, and I wasn't pouting about it during the year."
Patrick, who will turn 19 on Sept. 19, will not participate in the Flyers' development camp, which starts next Friday, but he will attend as a spectator. He is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
Neither Patrick nor Hextall revealed the surgery when questions about the center's health arose before the draft. Perhaps they thought it might affect where he was drafted. Hextall said "all teams" knew about the surgery.
Hextall said Patrick will be ready for training camp in September.
"He's anywhere from two weeks to four weeks from being fit to play," he said.
Hextall said the surgery is different from what was performed on Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere last year. They underwent hip surgery. William Myers, a Philadelphia-based physician, performed the latest surgery on Patrick four days after he had a June 9 medical exam by the Flyers.
Hextall talked to Patrick on Thursday, "and he said he feels terrific. We're excited that he had it done and we're looking forward to him being down here," Hextall said. "He's coming down Sunday and will be here for the biggest part of the summer (to work out), which I think is terrific on his part (because of) the commitment."
After Patrick was examined during his medical visit with the Flyers, "he was proactive. His agent reached out to us the next day and said, 'Nolan wants to get it done on his own,' " Hextall said of the surgery. "We're like, whoa, because that essentially saves two weeks for him" in his recovery. "I think that certainly showed the character of the young man. He said to me once we drafted him that he wanted to have it done because he didn't want to sacrifice two weeks of summer training and recovery."
If Patrick hadn't had the surgery, the Flyers would have asked him to have it shortly after the June 23 draft, Hextall said.
Hextall said the Flyers learned Patrick was going to need surgery after his June 9 medical visit, but he said that didn't make them think twice about drafting him.
"After different appointments with our doctors, we certainly felt a lot better knowing exactly what was going on," Hextall said.
Hextall was asked if he was concerned that the surgery could prevent Nolan from earning a roster spot this season.
"We're looking at the big picture here, so we're not looking at next season; we're hopefully looking at the next 10 to 15 seasons," he said. "We will do what's best for Nolan, long-term. But he had this done pretty early and he's still got lots of time here and this is a full recovery in four to six weeks (from the surgery). This isn't, 'OK, you can start skating in four to six weeks. This is full recovery. So he's got plenty of time to get through his summer training. He scored pretty well at the combine, so it's not like he came in in bad shape."
Hextall said you "never want any of your players to interrupt their summer training. But he's got long enough (time) that we believe he can be in shape and be at his best in training camp."