A day after the New Jersey Devils inked the No. 1 overall pick, Nico Hischier, to an entry-level deal, the Philadelphia Flyers followed suit by officially signing the No. 2 pick, Nolan Patrick.
With Patrick now on the books at a $925K annual average value, the question now is where he fits into the lineup.
By all accounts, Patrick is projected to make the roster despite offseason surgery, although he won’t be entering September camp with the mindset that he has already earned a spot.
“I’ll have to put in a little more work than other players would have to since I’m coming off an injury, but I’m ready to do that and do all I can to make this team,” Patrick said.
During last week’s development camp, Patrick said he was planning to be back on skates sometime this week, and that he was “feeling great” following his hernia surgery on June 13.
With that aside, the only remaining question now is what his usage will be when opening night comes around. There’s going to be a ton of buzz surrounding Patrick, and deservedly so as that naturally comes with the territory of being a top pick.
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Claude Giroux will man the top line center position, leaving the second line pivot to either Sean Couturier or Patrick. The coaching staff really can’t go wrong with either decision, and they may very well decide to give Patrick the third-line role in easing him into the league at the start.
While that’s a reasonable thought, expect to see Patrick anchor that second line with Wayne Simmonds (or Jake Voracek) to his right and either Jordan Weal, Travis Konecny or fellow rookie Oskar Lindblom to the left. However that line shakes out, it will create a pretty dynamic top six — arguably the most skilled the team has had in quite some time.
One thing that has been talked about is moving Patrick to the wing because of the logjam at center. That likely won’t happen, but it would be something the top pick isn’t opposed to if it came to that.
“I played one period on the wing in my whole career,” Patrick said. “If they wanted to put me on the wing, I’d be fine with that. I’m not going to complain if I make the team as a rookie. I think I could adjust to that.”
Patrick admitted that he played last season at 60-75% health while still putting up 46 points in 33 games. If he hits that 100% mark this season now that he’s undergone his surgery, there’s going to be plenty of optimism as to what his production could look like.
However, these lines shake out, adding Patrick into the top six would create one of the more exciting top two lines in the league.