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NHL Draft

Nolan Patrick named top pro prospect in Canadian Hockey League

Brandon center No. 1-rated North American skater for 2017 NHL Draft

by Dave Hogg / Correspondent

WINDSOR, Ontario -- Brandon center Nolan Patrick was the pick ahead of Halifax center Nico Hischier on Saturday. It could be a preview of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Patrick won the Canadian Hockey League Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award during the CHL Awards ceremony. The other finalists were Hischier and Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi.

"It's amazing to look at the trophy and see all of the players who have won this," Patrick said. "I can't put myself in the same class as Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane and Eric Lindros, but it is an honor to be on this trophy with them."

Hischier won the CHL CCM Hockey Rookie of the Year Award.

Patrick and Hischier are the top two North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings for the 2017 draft, which will be held at United Center in Chicago from June 23-24. Vilardi is No. 4.

The New Jersey Devils have the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Philadelphia Flyers will pick second.

Before the draft is the NHL Scouting Combine, which starts Monday and runs through June 3 in Buffalo.

"It's exciting to know that we're getting this close," Patrick said. "You try not to think about it during the season because you want to focus on your team. But once we lost in the [Western Hockey League] playoffs, it started to feel real."

A lower-body injury sidelined Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) during Brandon's four first-round playoff games against Medicine Hat. It was one of a series of injuries Patrick dealt with this season.

He had sports hernia surgery in July and was ready for the start of the season but played five games before missing 34 because of an upper-body injury.

Patrick had 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games; his 1.39 points per game average was 10th in the WHL.

"I took some time off after the season because I needed to get healthy," he said. "Now I'm working hard again and I feel good."

Last season, Patrick was fifth in the WHL with 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 72 games, and then tied for the WHL scoring lead with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games and was named the playoff MVP.

Paul Castron, the director of amateur scouting for the Devils, said Patrick's injury issues this season wouldn't prevent the Devils from selecting him.

"I don't even worry about the injuries," Castron said. "As long as our doctors are comfortable that he won't have any major problems, I don't really worry about it. … Everyone gets injured. In his defense, Patrick has been around for three seasons in the WHL, and has been expected to be the top pick of this draft for the past two seasons."

Hischier (6-1, 176) led Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookies with 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) in 57 games and won the league's Mike Bossy Trophy as the best professional prospect and the Michel Bergeron Trophy as offensive rookie of the year. He also led all draft-eligible players at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship with seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games for Switzerland.

"I think this has been a huge year for me," Hischier said. "I wanted to play in Canada this season in order to get better and Halifax was a perfect spot to do that. I had great coaches and great teammates and they made me learn to be a better player."

In's most recent mock drafts, Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale had Patrick being the No. 1 pick and Hischier going No. 2, and Guillaume Lepage had Hischier going No. 1 followed by Patrick.

However, that's not something Hischier is worried about.

"I know I had a good year and I'm going to be happy on draft day," he said. "I'm not focused on the exact pick. I think that's something that means a lot more to the media. People keep telling me what a great sports city Philadelphia is, so if I end up there, it will be great."

Patrick also isn't concerned.

"The draft means the start of my NHL career," he said. "That matters a lot more than whether I go first or not." 

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