If it weren't the first day of his first NHL Rookie Camp, Nolan Patrick's experience on Monday would have been a typical preseason day on the ice.
However, when you are second overall pick of the NHL Draft, have been ballyhooed since age 16 as a future NHL star and are coming back from offseason hernia surgery to repair an issue that lingered all last season, normalcy on a practice day is much welcomed.
For Patrick, getting back to normalcy has been an arduous process.
Despite averaging 1.39 points per game last season - just a shade below his 102-point pace of 2015-16 - he never felt close to 100 percent healthy even after undergoing sports hernia surgery in the summer of 2016. It turned out he initially had dual hernias. The problem was fixed this summer. Patrick declared on Monday that he now feels 100 percent healthy, and has for the past three weeks.
"That's kind of when all the pain was gone. I was feeling good on the ice and got my conditioning back," Patrick said. "Last year, the pain never went away."
Patrick underwent hernia repair surgery on June 13. He began skating in July during the Flyers' annual Development Camp but not yet able to participate in group drills on the ice. After an unrelated short-term delay due to a facial abscess, Patrick gradually began training in earnest.
Shifting his training from Voorhees to near his home in Manitoba, Patrick took to the ice three or four times per week. Gradually, he pushed himself harder and harder on the ice. Although Patrick was not able to participate in the World Junior Summer Showcase for Team Canada, he was ready by the time training camp and exhibition games started with his Brandon Wheat Kings (Western Hockey League) team.
"I did a lot of mobility stuff. That and [regaining] my conditioning were the two things I focused on," Patrick said. "I'm not holding back at all now. I'm 100 percent and there are no limitations going into battles."
Patrick said that Flyers captain Claude Giroux reached out to him over the summer to discuss some of his own experiences last season as he recovered from hip-and-groin surgery. Over the summer, Patrick worked out with several NHL players, including Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
As much of a recovery milestone as it is for Patrick to now be pain-free, the conditioning aspect is going to be crucial in the weeks and months ahead, whether he spends the season in the NHL with the Flyers or returns to Brandon for one additional season.
"We'll see [Patrick's] progress as he goes through camp," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "Sometimes with young players, there's different points where you see guys hit a bit of a wall… Even though there's some ups and downs energy-wise, they're able to keep building their work level in camp."
Hakstol opined that Patrick did fine on the first day of camp.
"I thought he looked strong and looked pretty comfortable. That's a good sign for Day One," Hakstol said.
Noting that it's been awhile since his last competitive game, Patrick said that he is chomping at the bit to participate in the Rookie Game on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center against the New York Islanders prospects. On Sept. 19, Patrick will celebrate his 19th birthday.
The youngster, who exudes quiet self-confidence, has every intention of giving himself a slightly belated birthday present by earning a spot on the NHL roster. He said that he relishes the competition throughout Rookie Camp and into the main camp alongside the Flyers' veterans.
Video: Nolan Patrick following day 1 of Rookie Camp