BUFFALO -- Brandon center Nolan Patrick, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, didn't hesitate when asked what question was the most popular during his 13 team interviews at the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine this week.
"How's your health?" Patrick said. "It was pretty straightforward and has been the main thing. I can 100 percent guarantee you, though, that I'll be 100 percent healthy after the summer. I'm going to get stronger, faster and my goal is to make the jump to the NHL next [season]."
Patrick's injury issues started during the 2016 Western Hockey League playoffs and he needed surgery in July to repair a sports hernia. He played the first five games of the season before sustaining an upper-body injury. He returned Jan. 13 and had 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games, but missed all four WHL playoff games with a lower-body injury. He has 205 points (92 goals, 113 assists) in 163 WHL games.
In 2015-16, Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) was fifth in the WHL with 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 72 regular-season games, and tied for the league postseason scoring lead with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games. He was named the most valuable player of the WHL playoffs after leading Brandon to the championship.
The good news is Patrick passed his medical examination and intends to be a full participant in the fitness testing at the combine on Friday and Saturday at HarborCenter.
Here are five more things to know about Patrick:
1. He believes he will be NHL ready by September
Patrick: "I think right now I'd say I wouldn't be but after a summer of training and getting bigger, stronger, faster and more healthy, I think that's the goal for me. I don't set too many goals for myself but that's been one I've had for three years [in the Western Hockey League] and I feel confident in my abilities that I can make the jump."
2. He feels a generational talent is in the eye of the beholder
Patrick: "I think the NHL was really lucky to have so many great players come out of the draft the past two seasons, with Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews. A lot of teams I've spoken to here at the combine say this is an above average draft but the media talks as if it's a terrible one. I don't think it bothers anyone at the top of this draft class, to be honest. If teams are going to say there are no generational players, maybe it's a little motivation to prove them wrong and less pressure for those guys coming in."
3. He considered going to college
Patrick's uncle, former NHL defenseman James Patrick, played two seasons at the University of North Dakota after being selected in the first round (No. 9) by the New York Rangers in the 1981 NHL Draft.
Patrick: "When I was younger I did (consider college) but I kind of hit a growth spurt when I was 13 and was a little bigger than most of the kids at that age. So I kind of felt [Brandon] would be the best fit for me and my dad was good friends with Kelly McCrimmon, who was [their] coach at the time. My dad (Stephen) knew how McCrimmon ran his team and he was a big fan of Kelly's, so he thought it would be a good spot. But I did think of college for a bit when I was younger."
Video: Nolan Patrick Q&A from the NHL Scouting Combine
4. Patrick was an effective captain
Patrick, 18, was the second-youngest captain in the Western Hockey League this season. Kootenay defenseman Cale Fleury, who was two months younger and also eligible for the 2017 draft, was the youngest captain.
"My main thing (as captain) was trying to be as professional as I could and lead on the ice," Patrick said. "That's kind of how I focus my leadership. When things need to be said in the room I'm not scared to say it."
5. His nickname is 'Doctor Pat'
The nickname was given to him by Brandon teammate and right wing Reid Duke in 2015-16. Duke became the first player in the history of the Vegas Golden Knights when he signed a three-year, entry-level contract on March 6.
Patrick: "Duke named me Doctor Pat last year. I had this weird sports coat jacket that had patches on the arm that kind of looked like a doctor's jacket, so he started calling me that. It's usually just Pat, but he was kind of the main guy who called me that."