Before the hate mail starts crashing into my room, let me say this first. Prospects and draft picks are always unpredictable. Unless you’re LeBron James, Mike Trout or Connor McDavid, there’s always uncertainty when it comes to a young athlete. They can have all the tools, look to be the next big thing, and then when you make the jump to the major leagues, sometimes the stars just don’t align. Thus, there have been plenty of busts in major sports over the last forty years. Greg Oden, Alexandre Daigle, Patrik Stefan, Andrea Bargnani, I could go on and on with busts from baseball and football as well. No matter what sport, the message is still the same, you just never know.
For all I know, I could look like an idiot five years down the road, when Patrick is scoring 35-40 goals a season for the Philadelphia Flyers and leading them to playoff berths alongside Claude Giroux. But as of today, here in 2017, the future doesn’t look bright for the 2nd overall pick.
It pains me to write this, I actually interviewed Nolan’s sister Madison back when I was at broadcast school, and just from how she carried herself, the Patrick’s seem like a pretty awesome family.
The first notable sign being Patrick’s health. After an impressive rookie season scoring 30 goals as a 16-year-old, Patrick scored 41 goals and 102 points with the Brandon Wheat Kings in his sophomore year, leading the Kings to a WHL Championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup. But an injury-plagued season last year left Patrick playing in just 33 games and amassing a modest 46 points in that span. Compared to other draftees, Patrick’s 2016-17 season was nothing to celebrate.
The second point to be made is where the Winnipeg product is going. Philadelphia is loaded with talent up the middle. With Claude Giroux, Valtteri Filppula, Jori Lehtera and Sean Couturier filling out the top-4 centre spots on the team, it’s hard to picture Patrick playing his natural position when he joins the league. That also bringing up another side note, that some critics are skeptical that Patrick even makes the leap to the NHL his first season. The last 2nd overall pick to not make the jump in his first year? Ryan Murray of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who has also under-performed, partly due to injury, since being taken in the draft. The last forward that didn’t make the jump (or, sort of did I guess) was Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres, taken 2nd overall behind Aaron Ekblad in the 2014 draft. Reinhart did play 9 games, the maximum allowed by the league, before being sent back to major junior after recording just one assist. It should also be noted that Reinhart is still trying to find his place in the league, as he finished the 2016-17 campaign with 47 points in 79 games. This is a ‘glass half empty’ guess, but Patrick probably will get his nine games in the NHL this year before returning to Brandon. If he is going to make the leap this year, it definitely will be on the wing, and it’ll probably be in the bottom-6 of the line-up.
The third and final point, is that the 2017 draft class in general is pretty weak when you compare it to the 2015 and 2016 classes. Even at #1, Nico Hischier didn’t have jaw-dropping stats with the Halifax Mooseheads this year. That aura usually never changes, even if a few players overachieve or don’t live up to the expectations. The 2012 and 2014 draft classes didn’t have a lot of hype behind them, much like 2017, and the aforementioned classes generally speaking followed the script.
Now, Patrick’s game is a bruising, intimidating, power forward-like game, so if his scoring touch does go cold, he’s got a gritty side to him that he can rely on as well, unlike Nail Yakupov, who is a one-dimensional scorer who doesn’t bring much to the table when he’s not putting the puck in the back of the net. Add that in with the identity of the Philadelphia Flyers’ identity and background, and the city of brotherly love might not be such a bad fit for Patrick after all. But will he live up to the expectations of a #2 overall pick? I doubt it.