Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”

'Special day' for Nolan Patrick after being selected by Flyers at No. 2

'Special day' for Nolan Patrick after being selected by Flyers at No. 2

CHICAGO — Nolan Patrick was ready for this moment as far back as being a youngster, sitting on a sofa with his father Steve and uncle James, both former NHL players.
 
The youngster wasn’t watching videotape of hockey players.
 
He was dissecting them.
 
“I was watching hockey more than other kids,” said the 18-year-old centerman from the Brandon Wheat Kings, who was chosen No. 2 overall by the Flyers during the first round of the NHL on Friday at United Center (see story).
 
“Not just watching it with my dad and uncle, but I was picking apart the game when I was 5, 6 and 7. I think that might have helped me now. I always loved the game and always wanted to be in the NHL. I studied the game, where players go on the ice and things.”
 
Steve and James Patrick were his biggest role models. Obviously, the family lineage here bodes well for the Flyers.
 
Patrick was in a two-man race with Nico Hischier to go No. 1 overall to New Jersey. However, Devils general manager Ray Shero, who usually picks North American players, chose the Swiss-born Hischier, who played in North America just one season.
 
“I kinda had a feeling I was going to end up in Philly,” said Patrick, who is 6-foot-2, 198 pounds. “I’m real excited about the chance to go there. It’s tough to put in words right now, but it’s a special day for me and my family.
 
“Me and Nico are completely different players. He might be a little more offensively dynamic than me. I might be more defensive than him. [The Devils] wanted him. It’s not like I’m sitting here mad because they didn’t want me.”
 
There were question marks about Patrick’s health and whether that would impact Shero’s decision.
 
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was equally concerned. So much so, he brought Patrick into Skate Zone this month to be medically tested by the club’s own physicians. Patrick missed a large portion of games this past season with two sports hernias and a knee injury.
 
Asked if he felt he was almost having to sell himself to the Flyers as a healthy player, Patrick replied absolutely not.
 
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “If you don’t want to draft me, then don’t draft me. I’m really happy I am here. I think they just wanted me to see their doctors.”
 
Injuries limited him to just 33 games last season. And yet, Patrick still scored 20 goals for the Wheat Kings with 46 points. He had 41 goals and 102 points the previous season.
 
When judging a prospect, Hextall said it’s important to weigh the entire body of work — not just one season. Same with injuries (see story).
 
“I guess I showed as much as I could that [previous] year,” Patrick said. “Watching hockey [when injured] sucks. No one ever wants to be injured. I hate watching and not being able to contribute to my team.
 
“And then playing and not being a 100 percent. I didn’t play one game this year feeling [like] myself. I’ve got the summer to get where I need to be.
 
“My skating was kinda bugging me throughout the season. I needed to get my conditioning back to where I wanted it to be. I did as much as I could, but I wasn’t pouting about it.
 
Scouts are unanimous in predicting Patrick will play this season in the NHL. He turns 19 during training camp.
 
“I need a good summer of training to get bigger and stronger,” he said. “Everyone in the NHL can skate. I’m a strong player, so that’s my main thing.”
 
Patrick said he became friends with Hischier hanging out this week and was happy that the latter became the first player in Swiss history to go No. 1 overall in the draft.
 
Patrick lauded his coaches, past and present, at Brandon for helping push him to achieve more and become a top NHL draft pick. 
 
His teammate two seasons ago was Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov. They’re close friends and have been talking regularly in the weeks leading up to this draft.
 
He’s also close with Brayden Schenn, another former Brandon player of years earlier, who was actually traded by the Flyers to the Blues on draft night (see story).

Patrick feels having at least one familiar face in training camp this fall could be beneficial.
 
“When you’re going somewhere and don’t know anyone, it’s tough for a guy to step in,” Patrick said. “[Knowing Provorov], it will help me make the transition.”