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Patrick shows Flyers something with assist on overtime goal

GM Hextall wanted No. 2 pick in 2017 Draft to distinguish himself vs. Islanders

by Mike Cranston / Correspondent

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- A turnover at center ice in overtime Wednesday left Philadelphia Flyers center Nolan Patrick with the puck and plenty of room to maneuver. The crowd buzzed and many rose from their seat as the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft skated in on a 2-on-1 and made a perfect cross-ice pass to Shayne Gostisbehere.

"That," Gostisbehere said, "was an NHL pass."

Gostisbehere one-timed the puck into the net to give the Flyers a 3-2 victory against the New York Islanders at PPL Center and Patrick his first point of the preseason one day after he turned 19.

"Pretty quiet in the first couple periods, but I thought he and his line had an impact in the third and generated a little bit of momentum," Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol said of Patrick. "And then he made a [heck] of a play on the game-winning goal. So that's the type of impact you want to see out of a player of his caliber."


[RELATED: Preseason roundup: Sept. 20]


In his second NHL preseason game, Patrick played center on the second line with fellow prospects Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel through the second period of the split-squad matchup at the home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate. 

But Hakstol changed it up in the third, putting Patrick and Lindblom with veteran Colin McDonald, who has kept a close eye on Patrick in training camp. 

"It's hard not to focus on him and see what makes him second overall," McDonald said. "Just very mature for his age ... Very smooth and poised, and it feels like he belongs. He has that confidence about him. I was happy I had a chance to play with him tonight."

Prior to overtime, Patrick was steady and mistake-free but unspectacular. Before the game, general manager Ron Hextall hinted the Flyers wanted to see more. 

"He's shown the type of player he is. He's a smart player. He's got good poise. He makes smart plays," Hextall said. "Typically, he makes the right play. Typically, he's in the right position. He's done a lot of the things we expected, but he's got to do some things here."

Patrick acknowledged there were a "little bit of nerves" in his NHL preseason debut Sunday against the Islanders. It was his second game since March 17 after he was limited to 33 games last season for Brandon in the Western Hockey League because of continued issues with a sports hernia.

After recovering from June 13 abdominal surgery, his second such operation in less than 12 months, Patrick is pain-free and working on his timing. 

"I think I've been getting better," Patrick said. "I think in that rookie game (last Wednesday, also against the Islanders) I played pretty well in that and then obviously the speed got faster (Sunday). I'm getting more comfortable each game and I'm just trying to pick up my game each time."

Patrick took one of Philadelphia's four first-period penalties when he was called for holding the stick. But he also used his size to keep a 1-on-3 matchup behind the Islanders net, holding up play long enough for the Flyers to make a full change after a long shift. 

Patrick continued to show confidence. A crisp pass to Lindblom in the slot late in the second period led to an Islanders penalty, and Taylor Leier scored his second goal of the night on the ensuing power play.

Patrick is part of a glut of centers for the Flyers, and Hakstol got creative Tuesday when he had captain Claude Giroux play left wing in practice with center Sean Couturier and right wing Jakub Voracek. 

If Giroux moves to the wing, it could allow Valtteri Filppula to play center on the second line and Patrick to play in the middle on the third line.

"There are jobs to be won here. There are also combinations that need to be looked at," Hextall said. "Certain combinations based on last year we know will work. But is there something better? And if you add one player, two players, three players to the lineup, it changes things. So, we've got a lot of work to do."

Patrick is seeking to make steady progress and use his two-way skills to get more involved offensively as he tries to earn a spot in the lineup for the season opener Oct. 4 at the San Jose Sharks. 

"For me, I find I get more chances offensively when I'm playing good defense, so I try to focus on that," he said. "The last couple of games I haven't been getting many bounces with chances. But I was lucky enough to a get a 2-on-1 there and get a good pass there to Ghost."

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