Noaln Patrick was supposed to be the #1 pick in this draft dating back over a year. Another injury to Patrick and a new contender Brian previewed last week have thrown a wrench into that surefire decision. He is still likely the odds-on favorite, but the new competition gives us more reason to understand exactly what the team that drafts Nolan is getting.
Who is Nolan Patrick?
Nolan Patrick is the captain and top-line center for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. He is listed at 6’3’’, 198 lbs and is an older prospect. His birthday is September 19th, only 4 days short of last year’s cutoff. He also comes from a hockey family.
“On his paternal side his father Steve Patrick played 250 games in the NHL, his uncle James Patrick is a former NHL defenceman and former Dallas Stars assistant coach... On his maternal side...his uncle Rich Chernomaz is a former NHL player who currently coaches in Germany and Hungary.”
If you’d like a more manipulable dataset, I’ve created a Google Sheet of the WHL stats from the past two seasons using data from Dubnetwork’s stats. I’ve used Iain Fyffe’s age adjustments from StatShot to show adjusted point per game totals. It shows Nolan Patrick as the top age-adjusted player by a significant margin last year, and 4th this year, behind Ducks’ 2016 1st rounder Sam Steel; and consensus 1st rounders in 2017, Kailer Yamamoto and Cody Glass. We need to use per-game stats because — as evidenced by his GP, he missed 3 months and the playoffs with various injuries -- enumerated in the “An Opinion of Sorts” section.
Though he was 10th in points per game, over half of his assists were secondary assists, so he is actually only 25th in the WHL in primary points per game. Furthermore, over half of his assists came on the powerplay — though only 15% of his goals did.
That said, he was obviously the most exciting player in the WHL the entire 2015-2016 season when he also was the playoff MVP — scoring a league-leading 30 points in 21 games en route to a 16-5 record and the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the WHL Championship.
Where is Nolan Patrick ranked?
He is either #1 or #2 pretty much everywhere ... and he’s #1 most places. The fact that he’s #2 anywhere is a testament to the fear of injury and the play of Hischier — at one point less than a year ago, Bob McKenzie of TSN had referred to this as the “Nolan Patrick Draft”
Elite Prospects has him as the unanimous #1 from all of their sources. But there are high-profile detractors. ESPN’s Corey Pronman had him at #2. Recrutes and DraftBuzz do as well. There are a few guys that are trying to make noise by going with someone other than Nico or Nolan at #1 and as a result, The Draft Analyst has him third with Casey Middlestat 1st, and DraftSite’s mock had Cody Glass going first and Patrick third.
But basically he’s the top prospect.
What Others Say About Nolan Patrick
You can find a lot said about Patrick in every medium. I’ve taken a few block quotes and shown them here. They can get repetitive so I’ve bolded the things they say that are novel.
“I've seen enough from Patrick, who missed a chance to make Team Canada for the world junior championship because of a groin injury, over the last three years to consider him the best overall prospect available in the 2017 NHL draft. His package of skill, smarts and size — in addition to his accomplishments in his first two years of junior and at the international level — separates him from the field. ... While he’s not in the same class as previous first-overall picks Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, Patrick does project as a very good two-way number-one centre in the mould of Eric Staal.” -Craig Button of TSN
"The Brandon-player combines size, skill and speed and possesses a very well-rounded game. Patrick is a number-one NHL center and there are not many flaws in his game. Makes use of his long reach and strength when protecting the puck and plays an active game, always looking to create something when on the ice. Can distribute the pass as well as finish off plays."-Dennis Schellenberg of Hockey Prospectus
“A natural sniper, Nolan Patrick has a tremendous wrist shot and quick release. He also has quick, soft hands and can bury chances in close to the net. His game is incredibly mature for his age. He has high end hockey IQ and always seems to make the right play both with and without the puck. Patrick has excellent vision and passing skills. He can put the puck through tight areas and make tape-to-tape passes for teammates. Patrick has the skill to make his linemates better. His long reach and quick hands make him a very good puck handler. He can extend plays, waiting for his teammates to get open. Patrick also has the ability to slow the play down, or speed it up, giving defenders one more thing to think about.” - Ben Kerr of LWOS
“He has the size and skill down the middle that all NHL teams covet. There are no weaknesses to his game; he has excellent hands and puck skills. He is equally adept at making plays and passes as he is shooting and finishing. His skating is strong with good mobility, balance and a formidable top speed. He plays well in all three zones and is strong on draws, and shows leadership and maturity. Patrick is strong in all categories scouts are looking for but does not really have any elite assets, a jack of all trades but a master of none.” - Peter Harling of Dobber Prospects
I’ve attached 2 videos here. The first one is immediately below and is a highlight reel. The second one is almost 3 hours of footage of every shift he took in 6 games.
Just 40 seconds in, you can see a good example of his vision and intelligence. Before he even got the puck, he knew where he was going with it. He never looks at the recipient of the pass until after the puck has left his stick and delivers a perfect pass nonetheless.
At 3:12 you get a really good idea of what makes people really excited about him. If you look in the larger video, you’ll see he has a very active stick at both ends of the ice. In this highlight though, you get to see it on display, right before you see his finishing skill all in one beautiful move.
If you’re tired of all this “two-way center” talk and want to see some fireworks, then skip to 4:18. This is a great example of his hockey IQ and creativity. That goalie had literally no idea what black magic Patrick pulled to get that pass off.
Saucer-pass fans anyone? Check out 5:42 for a beaut’. That’s an obvious, but tough pass to make. For a not-so-obvious pass watch him go full Peyton Manning at 10:02. I don’t know how he saw that pass, but it was beautiful.
At 6:54, Patrick is about 5 feet behind the defender who’s got him and they are at the far blue line before a breakaway. By 6:58 he’s gotten comfortable position in front of him and uses his big body to box him out and finish the 2-on-none.
I haven’t shown you any goals because they’re boring. Just you’re run of the mill laser wrist shot nailing the corners. There’s a ton in this reel, but if I had to pick one it’d be this short-side gem at 4:08.
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do a full analysis of this video. I’ve seen all 3 hours. It could give you a more realistic expectation. He’s obviously not going to be giving you the highlights from the first video every time he steps on the ice — it’ll probably happen a couple times a game. To see what his mundane shift looks like, you can watch the video. He scores here once. This is the beginning a successful powerplay he gets an assist on. And this is a successful powerplay he scores on. It also shows his injury at the end.
All that said, it’s definitely worth noting that this package doesn’t fully represent him at his peak. This is a sample of one of the most ineffectual stretches of his career. The graph below shows his 3-game moving point totals. The highlighted region is where these games occurred.
Also the Wheat Kings, who were league champions in 2016 and made the playoffs in 2017, lost 5 of the 6 games shown here. But it is the most thorough tape package on him so I felt obligated to share it.
An Opinion of Sorts
Nolan Patrick is the safe #1 pick. Nico is the sexy one. Patrick is likely not going to win any Art Ross trophies during his career. But if he develops the way he should, he will be expected to garner Selke votes in most seasons. The only thing that could stop him from becoming the player he projects as is the injuries.
I’m not worried about injuries. I know that probably sounds weird, given the tweet above. But the only definite repeated injury there is a collarbone which was over 4 years ago. I’m writing off most of this as bad luck. Crosby had a concussion problem until he didn’t. McDavid missed most of last year and no one panicked. It’s possible that I’m wrong, but I just don’t see writing off a guy so young as “injury-prone.” If you guys remember an elite prospect whos career was derailed by injury then let me know in the comments — I personally don’t recall one and that may be why I’m not worried. For an educated dissenting opinion, check out njd23mp's comment on this article.
He makes pass that others can’t even see — let alone make. His wrist shot is deadly. He is really strong on the puck and while I didn’t seem him gain the zone by himself as much as I’d like — I saw him control the puck with his body while in the zone kind of like Jagr does. You will not sneak up on him in either end because he’s always a step ahead. He plays well in all situations. He’s not a quick skater, but he does have great top-end speed.
I have more to say on Nolan vs. Nico, but I’ll save that for a later post. For now I’ll just sat that, to me, this reeks of Tavares 2.0. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Tavares was old and on the radar a long time coming up on the 2009 Draft leading some to opine for a dissenting opinion which manifested in a late push for Matt Duchene. Nolan Patrick has been the #1 prospect for over a year and still is. A year of injury and an intriguing rival prospect makes people forget that he won playoff MVP of the WHL as a 17-year-old.
What do you guys think? Do the injuries scare you? Do you think Nolan is a fit for what the Devils are trying to do? Is he offensively exciting enough? Are you tired of hearing “two-way forward”? Do you think the #1 pick controversy is invented? Let us know your opinion below!
Nolan Patrick 2017 scouting report | SB Nation NHL Draft Match
Nolan Patrick will be a top two pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and it's time you get to know him.Posted by SB Nation NHL on Monday, May 15, 2017