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Patrick prepared for Flyers training camp with help from Toews

Rookie forward calls Blackhawks captain 'an awesome guy,' uses him as role model

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- For Philadelphia Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick, this was like getting ready for an upcoming college course with help from someone who essentially had written the textbook.

Patrick, the No. 2 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, underwent a training camp to prepare for Flyers training camp. His host was Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

The two forwards are from Winnipeg and they met at the draft in Chicago in June. In fact, Patrick wears No. 19, an homage to Toews, who was his favorite NHL player during his childhood.

"He's an awesome guy," Patrick said. "I can't give him enough credit to him."

It was Toews who reached out to Patrick in the offseason to suggest they should work out together.

"I found out his family's got a cabin that's about 40 minutes to an hour from my place [Lake of the Woods, Manitoba]," Toews said. "So I was just wondering if he was going to be out there. I gave him my number, and said, 'Hey, if you're going to be out there this summer, you're welcome to come train and skate. We've got a group going in August,' in this small town close to the lake.

"So it ended up working out. He was pretty much at our place working out every day on the ice. We had a really good group with a skill coach going, and it was a lot of fun. He's a talented young player, obviously a great personality, fun to be around."

Patrick was thrilled to be mentored by Toews, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with Chicago.

"He's one of the smartest guys I've ever met with stuff like that," Patrick said. "If you listen to him talk, some of the things he's telling me, I don't even understand what he's saying. Sometimes he has to slow down for me."

During the California segment of the Flyers' season-opening road trip, Patrick was talking about the assist(s) he received from Toews. The 19-year-old made his NHL debut at the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, and he had his first NHL point in the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Saturday, setting up a goal by close friend and former junior teammate, defenseman Ivan Provorov, with a terrific pass from behind the net.

Video: PHI@ANA: Provorov hammers home Patrick's dish

Patrick had been on the second line with Wayne Simmonds and Jordan Weal from the start of training camp through the first two games of the regular season, but was more effective on the third line with Travis Konecny and Dale Weise against the Ducks.

The Flyers (2-1-0) conclude their season-opening four-game road trip against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, NBCSP, NHL.TV).

Like Patrick, Toews made his NHL debut against the Sharks. The game was on Oct. 10, 2007 at Chicago and Toews scored in the first period of his first game.

Others in the summer training group with Toews and Patrick included Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic and Vegas Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin. While Patrick basked in Toews' wisdom, Patrick's youthful energy of Patrick did something for Toews.

"I think I'm 10 years older than him exactly, so sometimes I forgot how much older I was," Toews, 29, said. "But it was fun to have a training partner like him, especially a young guy with his energy and talent. It kind of sparks a little motivation within you as well."

"… It's crazy how many good, young players are coming out of the draft almost every year. You see it, and it definitely makes you realize that not only is your time limited, but you've got to work as hard as you can to stay on top and stay one of the best players."

Patrick was limited to 33 games last season with Brandon of the Western Hockey League, and has had two surgeries for sports hernias, stalling his progress.

"It set me back and I missed a lot of time," Patrick said. "At the end, adversity for a young player doesn't hurt you too much. And I think it made me stronger mentally. I learned a lot going through that."

He said the injury impacted his mobility and Toews suggested ways to improve it. Of course, the lake came in handy after practice.

"We were swimming every day after workouts, so wasn't much showers … shower in the lake," Patrick said.

Much has been made of Patrick's athletic lineage, and rightly so. His grandfather, Steve, played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, playing with, and later, for the legendary Bud Grant.

Patrick's father, Steve, and uncle, James, were first-round draft picks in the NHL. James played 1,280 NHL games and finished his 21-season career with the Buffalo Sabres in 2003-04. Steve played 250 NHL games, including parts of five seasons (1980-85) with the Sabres.

"I've seen a few videos of my dad fighting," Patrick said. "I remember when I was super young I actually saw my uncle score a goal. I don't remember how he scored it. But I just remember sitting in my basement with my dad and watching him score. That's the only memory I have of him playing."

James Patrick was an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars last season and now is coaching Kootenay of the WHL. His consistent message to his nephew was to follow Toews' example when things weren't going well.

"I look at him as the standard bearer," James said. "Lead by example and the right way to go about things. I've tried to recommend that type of behavior to Nolan. I said, 'Would Jonathan Toews be pouting if he didn't get enough ice time? No, he would just go out and work harder until he got more ice time.'"

The words of advice stuck. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall praised Patrick's maturity, pointing out how Patrick has described himself.

"He says, 'I'm a two-way center,'" Hextall said. "I've seen him say it over and over and over. Like I said, most guys want to lead the League in scoring or this and that, or I'm gifted or I'm fast or skilled or whatever. Nolan is a two-way center."

Almost on cue, Patrick used much of the same language in an interview after a 2-0 loss at the Kings on Thursday.

"I think the biggest strength of my game is my smarts out there and I rely on that a lot," he said. "I'm not the fastest player out there.

"So I try to use that to my advantage and try to be a good two-way guy, so that's something I was gifted with, I guess."

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