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 (see story). 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 (see story).
"I kind of had a feeling I was going to end up in Philly," Patrick, who is 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, said. "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 kind of 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.”