Nolan Patrick excited to feel like himself again with pain of sports hernia behind him

Nolan Patrick excited to feel like himself again with pain of sports hernia behind him

VOORHEES, N.J. — Nolan Patrick said he would feel a "sharp, shooting pain" in his lower stomach.

Whenever he skated last season, that's what he endured.

Patrick is excited to lose such a feeling when it matters most: NHL training camp in September with the Flyers, charging for a roster spot.

"I think this will be the first time in a while I've been 100 percent healthy," Patrick said Friday at Flyers development camp.

He was never close to it last season in his all-important draft year.

"I was probably 60 percent when I first started playing and maybe got up to 70, 75 tops," Patrick said. "I never had any wind during games. I'd lose my energy really quick because I'd lose it trying to skate with that injury. Probably 75 tops, I'd say."

Patrick on Friday was not speaking from the dressing room in pads and some Flyers getup, along with the rest of the prospects. The 2017 No. 2 overall draft pick was in front of a microphone wearing a hooded sweatshirt and backwards hat. Patrick is not partaking in the on-ice portion of development camp as he recovers from a June 13 surgery to repair a pestering sports hernia injury, the one that caused all that pain during his 2016-17 junior season.

After meeting with the Flyers and the renowned Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia prior to the June 23-24 entry draft, Patrick realized what had been so bothersome. It was a similar sports hernia injury he had addressed surgically last summer, except this was on the opposite side of his core. Once he was recommended surgery, he wanted it done as soon as possible. It happened 10 days before his name was called on draft night by the Flyers, who were aware of all the details.

"When the doctor said it needed to be done, I told him right there, 'OK, when can you do it?'" Patrick said. "He said, 'Go home for a couple days and come back.' I think I went home on a Friday and came back on a Monday and had it done Tuesday. I feel great. I'm really happy I got it done."

The 18-year-old center sounded refreshed. Having the surgery prior to the draft has allowed him to expedite his recovery in the sense of fewer missed days for training and preparation this summer. He said he's expected to skate next week. On June 30, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Patrick was two to four weeks away from resuming full activities.

Hextall is pleased with the progress, as well as having Patrick at Flyers Skate Zone to not only rehab with director of sports medicine Jim McCrossin, but also soak in development camp.

"He's committed himself to staying down here, which I think is terrific," Hextall said. "Obviously the doctors here, Jimmy McCrossin's got a lot of experience in terms of rehabbing, so I'm happy he's in good hands and under our umbrella.

"He's going to learn. It's his first exposure to the NHL. It's good for him to watch and be around and talk to some of the guys who have been to a couple of the development camps and observe the development, the coaches with the video and stuff. He'll learn a lot."

Patrick is glad to have the issue finally under wraps, especially after a full season of sharp and shooting pain. He's also confident the injury won't recur.

"Jimmy McCrossin's the main guy I've been working with," he said. "He said he's [never] seen a guy ever have it again after Dr. Meyers had worked on it, so that's a positive.

"I think it's an injury that gets fixed. It's not like it's a four-week recovery and it bugs you for a while. It's pretty much four weeks and you're ready to go. I'm really excited to be back on the ice."

Patrick still managed to produce 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games for the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings. With last season being his draft year, he refused to shut himself down, for a couple of reasons.

"I tried to play as much as I could and I just wanted to wait to see one of the best doctors — because I saw a couple doctors in Winnipeg and they said Meyers was the top guy in that area," Patrick said. "I waited to see him and apparently being in good shape heading into surgery, you heal quicker, so I just tried training as much as I can. I knew something was bugging me so I just waited to see him and got it done after that."

From the draft process to now, Hextall said the Flyers have gained a better grasp and appreciation of Patrick's toughness.

Through all of the hurdles, Patrick inadvertently learned a few things about himself, too.

"That I can play decent hurt, I guess," he said. "I don't know — probably just how to stay positive through things. It's never fun watching.

"I think every player wants to be out there and doesn't want to watch, but I think I've learned to be pretty patient missing 35 games this year. I guess I've got that down pat."

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed center Mika Zibanejad to a $26.75 million, five-year deal.

Zibanejad will count $5.35 million against the salary cap through 2021-22 as the Rangers count on him to take on a bigger role following the trade of Derek Stepan. General manager Jeff Gorton announced the contract Tuesday morning, before the team and Zibanejad were set to go to arbitration.

The 24-year-old Swede had 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games last season, his first with New York. The Rangers acquired Zibanejad from the Ottawa Senators for Derick Brassard a year ago.

Zibanejad has 188 points in 337 NHL games with the Senators and Rangers since Ottawa drafted him sixth overall in 2011.

Team Canada names Sean Burke GM for 2018 Olympics
Sean Burke will be the general manager and Willie Desjardins the head coach for Canada at the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.

Hockey Canada named its management and coaching staffs for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday. St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur will work under Burke on the management side, while Desjardins will be assisted by Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Canada has been grooming Burke for this responsibility for some time as he served as assistant GM for the 2017 world championships, GM for the 2016 Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup and director of player development for the 2016 worlds. Desjardins coached Canada's 2010 world junior team and assisted in 2009.

USA Hockey has not yet named its GM or coach.

Sabres re-sign goalie Lehner to 1-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a $4 million, one-year contract.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lehner was a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Swede showed he could stay healthy last season, setting career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. He ranked third in the NHL with 1,758 saves and finished with a .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Bothered by injuries and concussion problems, Lehner had never before played more than 36 games in his NHL career. The Sabres took a chance on Lehner when they traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for him at the 2015 draft.

Lehner will again be a restricted free agent next summer when this contract expires.

Devils re-sign 3 restricted free agents
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mirco Mueller, forward Joseph Blandisi and goaltender Scott Wedgewood.

Mueller got a two-year deal worth an average of $850,000 a season, Blandisi a two-year, two-way deal worth an average of $680,000 in the NHL, and Wedgewood a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL. General manager Ray Shero announced the contracts Tuesday.

Re-signing Mueller for two years was the most significant move after New Jersey acquired the 22-year-old from San Jose before the Vegas expansion draft. The Swiss defender has just six points in 54 NHL games with the Sharks, but still is considered a good prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013.

Mueller will make $775,000 next season and $925,000 in 2018-19.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

John Boruk/

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.