Name: Nolan Patrick
Team: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Stats: 33 GP, 20 goals, 26 assists, 46 points, 36 PIMs, +9 plus-minus rating
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 1st (North American Skaters)
NHL Comparable Player: Eric Staal
Nolan Patrick 2017 scouting report | SB Nation NHL Draft Match
Nolan Patrick will be a top two pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and it's time you get to know him.Posted by SB Nation NHL on Monday, May 15, 2017
The 2016-17 season did not go how Nolan Patrick hoped it would.
The Brandon Wheat Kings center was expecting to continue the torrid pace that he had set in 2015-16, when he scored 102 points in 72 regular season games, before adding another 30 in 21 playoff games as his club won the WHL Championship (he was also named WHL Playoff MVP for his efforts, quite a feat for a 17 year-old). A late 1998 birthday that missed the cutoff for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by just four days, Patrick’s phenomenal year made him the unanimous early front-runner for the 1st overall pick in 2017.
A collection of injuries and some inconsistent performances, however, have made that consensus a little more murky in the months leading up to this year’s draft.
Patrick played just 33 games in 2016-17, all of which came during Brandon’s regular season. After undergoing sports hernia surgery over the summer he suffered a separate upper-body injury in October that caused him to miss all of November and December, including the World Juniors, as he likely would have been a top candidate to make the Canadian team. He returned in January and played until the middle of March, before suffering what was only advertised as a “lower-body injury,” keeping him out for the remainder of the regular season and then the WHL playoffs. The Wheat Kings were swept in the opening round without him.
Now, it should be noted that Patrick is undoubtedly an incredibly talented hockey player. He has great size at 6’3” and gets his frame around the ice with powerful skating. His top gear isn’t the greatest, but he possesses a solid first couple of steps and remains very strong on his skates even when he reaches full speed.
One of the most impressive things about Patrick, though, is what he’s able to do once he really gets moving. He’s incredibly smooth while in flight, allowing him to stickhandle, pass and shoot with ease. He uses his large body, quick hands and long stick to keep the puck protected, and once he gets into a dangerous area he’s equally lethal at both shooting and playmaking, as his wrist shot and his passes are hard and accurate. He also displays advanced creativity and offensive awareness, so when you combined all of these traits together, it makes him a very difficult player to predict and to defend.
He’s no slouch in his own zone, either, as he hustles to get back defensively and has an acute understanding of where to go to best disrupt opposing scoring chances. He doesn’t often use his large size to punish players physically, but instead prefers to use his long reach to poke and deflect pucks. He’s also strong in the faceoff circle, rounding out his ability as a center that his team can trust when protecting a lead.
When zooming out to inspect the full package, you see that Patrick is a big, skilled, two-way center, someone with the potential to anchor a top scoring line while also helping his team in a number of different areas.
So, why isn’t Patrick the unanimous top pick any more? Some people that have watched him in the games that he did play this season have been concerned with what they’ve seen.
Grant McCagg, the founder of the scouting service Recrutes, gathered the following quotes in an article that he posted in April:
“We faced Patrick quite a few times this year,” said one eastern conference WHL head coach. “Nothing against the kid whatsoever, but what I saw this year and what our coaching staff saw last year are two different players. No question he’s a player, smart and everything else, but I’m not seeing what everybody talked about last year.
“I saw him play against Moose Jaw one night and he was downright lazy. When he has the puck he’s fine..but when he doesn’t…I’ve expected more. What I heard from last year was that this guy was going to be a handful this year…and he hasn’t been a handful with that hockey club.”
“Our guys aren’t keen on him,” said the scout of another team slated to pick in the top ten. “I would be really surprised if we took Nolan Patrick. Unless it’s a no brainer. If we’re at 4 or 5…then you’ve gotta do it. “If (club management) hear a peep on a player we’re not taking him…and they’ve heard some things that concern them.”
The next question then, it would seem, is what are the sources of these concerns? Was Patrick playing injured, and having that affect his performance? Was he feeling the effects of now playing on a weakened Brandon team that saw a number of its top players graduate from the WHL since last season?
Perhaps a more pertinent question: are these problems just a temporary issue, or a larger sign of what could be to follow in the future?
All of this being said, Patrick is still one of, if not the most, talented prospects in this draft. If he somehow falls to the 3rd overall draft pick it would be an amazing twist of fate for the Dallas Stars, a team that got lucky by moving up the board through the draft lottery and who need an elite center like Patrick in their prospect ranks.