Center Nolan Patrick of Brandon of the Western Hockey League, a candidate to be the first pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, had a goal and an assist in a season-opening 3-2 overtime loss to Moose Jaw on Friday.
Patrick's availability for the start of the season was in question after he had surgery in mid-July to repair a sports hernia. He had been cleared for contact earlier in the week, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound forward gave Brandon a 1-0 lead at 8:57 of the first period when he beat Moose Jaw goaltender Brody Willms with a backhand shot. With 1:38 remaining in the period, Patrick assisted on linemate Stelio Mattheos' goal to make it 2-0. Willms stopped Patrick's shot but Mattheos, also a top prospect for the 2017 draft, scored on the rebound.
"They had quality shifts," Brandon coach David Anning told the Brandon Sun. "They generated some very good scoring chances for us. We were encouraged by the chemistry that we saw. Obviously they're going to play an important role with our group."
Moose Jaw scored two goals in the final 1:51 of the third period to tie the game, and Tanner Jeannot won the game when he scored 29 seconds into overtime. Patrick was on the ice for the game-tying goal, which came with four seconds left in the third period, and the overtime goal.
Patrick, 18, tied for the WHL playoff scoring lead last season with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games and was named the most valuable player of the playoffs after helping Brandon win the league championship. During the regular season he was fifth in the WHL with 102 points and tied for eighth with 41 goals in 72 games.
He sustained his injury during Game 4 of the WHL Eastern Conference Final against Red Deer but never missed a game.
"I was in quite a bit of pain," Patrick told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It happened in Game 4 of the Red Deer series. Then I kind of played through it during the league final. It's kind of tough to say no to playing."
Said NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan: "He reminds me of guys like Sam Reinhart [Buffalo Sabres] or Leon Draisaitl [Edmonton Oilers] because he's not flashy but so good and smart. He reads the ice as well as any forward I saw in the WHL [last season]. He's a scorer and playmaker."