Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2017 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Center Nolan Patrick, captain of Brandon of the Western Hockey League and a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, told NHL.com on Wednesday he will likely miss the next 2-3 weeks because of an upper-body injury.
Patrick (6-foot-3, 198 pounds), who remains an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's updated players to watch list that was released Thursday, had four goals and nine points in six games to begin the season but has missed the past 14 games.
"I'm skating on my own right now," Patrick said. "I just starting getting back on the ice (this week) and doing edge work and skill stuff like that, but nothing too intense yet. Every day it gets a little better, so I'm hopeful. This was out of my control, and it's killing me not to be out there with my teammates."
Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, believes recovery from this type of condition has no set timeline.
"It requires rehabilitation and training or a re-training of the muscles in the affected area," Marr said. "It's difficult to assess when a player is fully recovered and ready to return, and generally unpredictable. The player's body will be the first to let him know."
Patrick had surgery to repair a sports hernia in July and returned in time for Brandon's season opener against Moose Jaw on Sept. 23; he had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss.
Patrick had 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games to tie for the WHL playoff scoring lead last season and was named postseason MVP after helping Brandon win the Western Hockey League title. During the regular season, his 102 points in 72 games were fifth in the WHL, and his 41 goals were tied for eighth.
"The condition is unfortunate in that it occurred during Patrick's draft year, but it really doesn't influence his draft status as NHL clubs know him very well as a player and he'll remain one of the top draft prospects for 2017," Marr said. "It's expected that Nolan will fully recover, and NHL teams know that this type of injury often has no predictable timeline. He'll be ready when he's ready."
Patrick reportedly was hurt during Game 4 of the WHL Eastern Conference Final against Red Deer. He never missed a game, though he did admit to playing through some pain during the league final.
He wants to make sure he's 100 percent before returning to the lineup.
"It was a combination of maybe coming back to early and overcompensating a bit," Patrick said. "My muscles weren't really training to move how they're supposed to after the surgery. I think I was still tight in certain areas and so I was overcompensating.
"It's a matter of training the muscles on how they should function."
Though disappointed he couldn't play for Team WHL against Russia in the 2016 Canada Russia Series last week, Patrick is holding out hope he will receive an invitation to Hockey Canada's selection camp for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal. The camp will be held in Blainville, Quebec from Dec. 11-14. The tournament begins Dec. 26.
"That camp is still an option for me; I think I'll be ready to go before that, and obviously that was one of my goals coming into the season," Patrick said. "I think if I get back in time, they'll hopefully give me a shot at it."
Marr can understand Patrick's desire to represent his country at such a prestigious event.
"[Playing in the WJC] is a natural and realistic goal for Nolan Patrick to have, and I'm certain that Hockey Canada would also like to have him in the mix for consideration," Marr said. "This isn't a situation where healing time is required; it's a matter of treatment and rehabilitation, so he should be optimistic about getting back to playing and being considered for the world junior tournament."
Patrick is the son of former NHL forward Steve Patrick and nephew of former NHL defenseman James Patrick. Since the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, he's been considered by many as the best player available in the 2017 draft.
"It's nice to [be regarded so highly] but a lot of things can change during the year and the rankings can move around," Patrick said. "My main focus right now is getting healthy and getting back out there with my team. It's not fun being injured. Hopefully I can get healthy soon and get out there and start having fun again."
Having a father and uncle who played in the NHL, who have been injured during their careers and have persevered, will no doubt help Patrick get through this situation.
"They tell me to stay positive and not worry about what anyone else is saying," Patrick said. "I'll try and stay in shape as much as I can and come back at 110 percent. I can't rush it."
Marr understands that having a father and uncle with NHL ties can aid the process.
"It's tough and frustrating for any player when they are injured and want nothing more than to be out on the ice and playing with their team," Marr said. "It's a tremendous benefit in having had family who played in the NHL and understand what an injured player goes through to help keep the player focused and his spirits up."