PHILADELPHIA -- If Philadelphia Flyers center prospect Nolan Patrick had any lingering questions about his health, they were answered right after the opening faceoff of the rookie game against the New York Islanders at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.
"First shift when I skated five feet and wasn't tired, that's when I noticed I was healthy," Patrick said following a 4-3 overtime loss. "I feel great out there."
Patrick, the No. 2 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, had surgery to repair a sports hernia on his right side after the 2015-16 season but had one on the left side that was undiagnosed. He played 33 games last season but said at best he was 75 percent and in constant pain when he skated. He had surgery to repair the issue on the left side June 13, 10 days before the draft.
Recovery from the surgery, as well as a facial infection, kept him off the ice for most of the summer. But he spent time before the start of rookie camp Monday skating with a group of NHL players near his home in Winnipeg, and said this week that he's felt as good as he has in two years.
Patrick had three shots on goal in 23 shifts in his first game since March 17. His best chance came during overtime when forward Oskar Lindblom passed him the puck in the slot but his backhand hit the post.
Video: Hear from Patrick following Rookie Game
"Saw low glove there, [the puck] was rolling on me a bit," Patrick said. "Tried for it and hit the post. Thought I had it, just missed my spot a bit."
The Islanders turned play the other way, and defenseman Mitchell Vande Sompel entered the Flyers zone and beat goaltender Carter Hart with a wrist shot at 3:14.
"I felt great until the last play in overtime," Patrick said. "Ran out of gas going in on the offense and then trying to get a backcheck there. Other than that, I thought I played a good game for my first one since March. Felt really good out there."
John Stevens, the son of Kings coach and former Flyers coach John Stevens, scored for the Islanders. Forward Arnaud Durandeau and defenseman Sebastian Aho each had a goal in the third period, and forward Michael Dal Colle had two assists. Eamon McAdam and Mitch Gillam combined for 23 saves.
Defensemen James De Haas, Travis Sanheim and Mark Friedman scored for the Flyers, and forward Mikhail Vorobyev had two assists. Hart and Alex Lyon combined for 32 saves.
Although Patrick was on the ice for the Islanders' winning goal, his defensive play seemed in midseason form. He got deep on the backcheck when needed and was able to break up plays in the neutral zone with a quick stick.
His best shift of the game came in the second period when he got deep in the defensive zone to retrieve a puck, skated it end to end, and centered to linemate Maksim Sushko for a scoring chance.
"My legs felt really good tonight," Patrick said. "I don't know if that was adrenaline. I've always prided myself on being a good defensive player and being two ways. Thought I was pretty good back there tonight."
Scott Gordon, who coached the Flyers rookies, used Patrick in all situations. In addition to 5-on-5, he played him at the point and on the half-wall on the power play, and also used him on the penalty kill.
"He's a skilled player," said Gordon, who coaches Lehigh Valley, the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate. "I think when you watch practice, guys make plays and things, but to see the plays he made tonight under pressure, on the tape, you can see why he was drafted as high as he was."
The only place Patrick seemed to struggle was on faceoffs. He said that's a result of not playing for six months.
"I haven't taken a faceoff since March, so I don't know what I was but probably wasn't my best night in the faceoff dot," he said. "That's something I'm going to keep working on. I think I'm a pretty good faceoff guy. Timing wasn't great tonight."
The next chance he'll have to work on it will come Friday, the first day of Flyers training camp, followed by the first preseason game, against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday.
He'll take that next step healthy and without any hesitation.
"It's really exciting for me to feel where I want to be and just move forward from here and keep getting better, keep improving every day," he said.