How Nolan Patrick's injury could have been career-ending

How Nolan Patrick's injury could have been career-ending

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dr. William Meyers may have saved Nolan Patrick’s career June 13 when the 18-year-old NHL prospect elected to have corrective surgery on a core muscle injury that had been bothering him for the better part of the past year.

Prior to his initial visit to Philadelphia, Patrick believed he was fully healthy when he went through comprehensive testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in May, but his time on the ice told a much different story.

“I was probably 60 percent when I first started playing and maybe got up to 70, 75 tops,” Patrick said at development camp earlier this month. “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.”

But what Patrick was completely unaware of, as are the many doctors who perform these core muscle surgeries, is the prevalence of how these complex injuries are misinterpreted. The Flyers' rookie should have had a typical four-to-six week recovery last summer, and any setback likely would have been avoided. 

Patrick’s first operation took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, by Dr. James Robinson who, according to Patrick’s agent Kevin Epp, came recommended from the Jets' organization.

“I don’t think it had time to heal,” Epp said Monday in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. “Nolan got the surgery to fix the injured area at the time. I don’t know if both sides needed repair. Through the course of rehab he may have aggravated the other side.” 

“It’s tough to explain but it’s a sharp, shooting pain in your lower stomach," Patrick said. “I had it on both sides for a while there. I got one side fixed and then was having issues on that side again."

Whether Patrick was misdiagnosed or the procedure and subsequent rehabilitation were mishandled is certainly open for debate.

In speaking with Meyers of the Vincera Institute, he could not discuss specifically Patrick’s injury or his surgery, but said he performs “on average 10 procedures during a regular clinical day” in which the original surgeon failed to correct the problem area and the result is either a re-aggravation or the development of another injury altogether.

“The number one cause is a failure to understand that the prevalent concepts of ‘hernias’ have nothing to do with these injuries,” Meyers said.

Meyers believes the reason why core muscle injuries aren’t performed correctly are three-fold:  

• A general failure to understand the whole concept of the core muscle region (the area from mid abdomen to mid thigh).  

• A lack of knowledge regarding the anatomy.

• Very little experience seeing a variety of core muscle injuries and correlating that with the imaging. 

Over the past 35 years, Meyers has dedicated his medical career to the complex field of core muscle injuries, and what he has witnessed is a very disturbing trend. He’s the pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of core muscle injuries, working primarily in his two-story complex at the Navy Yard. 

“The reason why I got into this area was so many hockey players in the 1980s were forced to retire too early because of these [core muscle] injuries," Meyers said. "It was, at that time, the number one reason why they retired.”

Perhaps the one popular Flyer whose career succumbed to persistent groin pain was Mikael Renberg, who retired in 2008 at the age of 35 after undergoing three separate groin procedures over a 12-year span.

Patrick saved himself the agony and was thoroughly convinced a corrective procedure performed by Meyers prior to the draft was vital to his career, regardless of who selected him.

The Flyers were also convinced. Patrick didn’t have an injury history, just history of an injury that never healed in the first place. 

Thankfully, they knew the one doctor who could get down to the core of the problem.

Flyers sign No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick to entry-level contract

Flyers sign No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick to entry-level contract

When the Devils signed No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier to his entry-level contract Saturday, it was only a matter of time before the Flyers followed suit with Nolan Patrick.

Two days, to be exact.

The Flyers on Monday morning signed Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in last month's NHL draft, to the maximum three-year entry-level contract for salary and performance bonuses.

Patrick's contract is for three years with an annual average value of $925,000, a source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com.

The 18-year-old Patrick did not participate in the on-ice portion of last week's development camp at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, after undergoing abdominal surgery on June 13.

Ten days ago, Patrick said he would be back on the ice last week (see story). When the Flyers announced Patrick's surgery on June 30, general manager Ron Hextall said the center was 2 to 4 weeks from being fully recovered.

The June 13 surgery repaired a sports hernia injury that pestered him throughout the 2016-17 season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. Patrick had a similar injury on the other side of his core addressed surgically last summer.

"This will be the first time in a while I've been 100 percent healthy," Patrick said July 7. "That injury was kind of bugging me all season. ... I was probably 60 percent when I first started playing and maybe got up to 70, 75 [percent] tops.

"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."

Despite playing through injury last season, Patrick registered scored 30 goals and was slightly above a point-per-game player with 56 points in 55 games with the Wheat Kings.

After being projected as the No. 1 pick this year since the end of the 2016 draft, Patrick fell to the Flyers at No. 2 with Hischier's rise and partially because of his injuries.

All signs point to Patrick's being a Flyer on opening night Oct. 4 in San Jose, assuming all goes well in training camp.

Hextall has repeatedly said this summer he will not block any of his prospects this training camp by signing any veteran free agents. He's committed to the youth movement.

There are expected to be two open forward spots in the top-nine with Patrick and Oskar Lindblom being the favorites. There is also a competition for the fourth-line spots that could see another rookie, Mike Vecchione, and Scott Laughton, 23, make the team.

With Patrick signed and Hextall signing his remaining three restricted free agents Saturday, the Flyers' offseason appears to be complete.

Notes, quotes and tidbits from Flyers development camp

Notes, quotes and tidbits from Flyers development camp

VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has said many times before that development camp is not for evaluation. Instead, it’s for prospects to learn how to be a pro.

What Hextall said the key teaching points are at camp include nutrition, recovery, stretching and weight lifting. Hextall preaches a player's character and that was no different Friday.

Proper workout techniques to the smallest details such as the proper way to lift weights and positioning are all part of the criteria taught at camp.

"Most of these kids work hard," Hextall said Friday during Day 1 of camp. "Some of them aren't working the right way. You've got to work hard, but you have to work smart too.

"If they're in bad shape now, it certainly doesn't help them, but we're certainly not here to evaluate. We're here to give them tools to go work and make themselves better."

One of the assets at Hextall's disposal is Slava Kouznetsov, the team's power skating coach who has helped Oskar Lindblom vastly improve his skating from his draft year.

With a few prospects that need to work on their skating — Matthew Strome and Connor Bunnaman, for example — Kouznetsov is a big influence among development coaches.

While Hextall said he's not evaluating skill at camp, he did say the Flyers will be judging a prospect's character. Part of that is not working on their strengths.

"If a kid is mishandling the puck out there but trying to do something properly rather than cheating," he said, "I would rather see them mishandle the puck because you're getting better. It's not what you should be doing. If a guy's going to his bad side and he's tripping, stumbling, falling, I'm OK with that. I'd rather that than him work on his strengths."

Hextall highlighted players' desires to correct discrepancies in their game in the summer rather than during the season because there's no pressure to win games.

With development camp, it gives the Flyers an opportunity to teach prospects little details that aren't taught at lower levels. Hextall pointed to power skating, specifically pivoting.
 
An example Hextall used was one of the groups of defensemen. Hextall said the younger blueliners looked awkward doing no-crossover pivots, especially compared to Travis Sanheim, who is in his fourth and final development camp.

"The first-year kids come in and they're like, 'Wow, this is new,'" Hextall said. "They've never been taught this. It's all the little things that we don't understand … these kids, we think they should know. They don't know. They haven't had that level of coaching yet.

"That's why development camps are so important. I wish we had them two or three times in the summer, but the rules are the rules."

Knowing the captain
As time goes on, we'll start to see more of Nolan Patrick's personality.

For months now, the 18-year-old has had to answer question after question regarding his injuries.

On Friday, he showed his NHL sense of humor. Patrick was asked if he had been introduced to any Flyers yet and mentioned how he's known Claude Giroux since he was 14 years old.

"At the Allstate All-Canadians game," Patrick said of where he met the Flyers' captain. "He was my coach for that. I was talking to him a few weeks ago just over text but I haven't seen him."

What kind of coach is Giroux?

"We lost, so …" Patrick said with a smile.

Ivan the … invitee
One of the more intriguing aspects of development camp is non-roster invitees — undrafted players in the junior ranks or college-bound. Think Mike Vecchione.

Vecchione was a camp invitee last summer and used it as an opportunity to impress the Flyers' brass. He eventually signed with the Flyers in late March as a heralded NCAA free agent out of Union College. Vecchione signed a two-year contract extension last weekend.

At 24 years old, he's the oldest attendee of this summer's development camp.

The Flyers have seven invitees in Voorhees this weekend — two forwards, four defensemen and a goaltender. Among the invitees is Ivan Kosorenkov.

Kosorenkov, 19, is a Russian right winger who plays for the Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL) who went undrafted in last month's NHL draft. A teammate of Pascal Laberge, another Flyers prospect, Kosorenkov registered 34 goals and 63 points in 68 games last season.

"Certainly a kid who could have got drafted but didn't," Hextall said of Kosorenkov. "There's a lot of bubble guys. There were a few guys in the seventh round we would have liked to pick.

"We moved the one pick, made one pick but there were a few guys on the board there we'd like to pick. I wish the draft was 10 rounds, 12 rounds, personally."

Not about to wing it
Patrick is regarded as a franchise center, a multifaceted playmaker up the middle that thrives on creating chances for others.

On Day 1 of development camp, he was asked about the possibility of playing wing.

Many centers transition into wingers or try both before reaching the NHL.

Patrick's ability makes him a different story.

To his credit, he didn't shoot down the idea.

"I played one period of wing in my whole career," he said. "If they wanted to put me on wing, I'd be fine with that. I’m not going to complain as a rookie if I made the team. I could adjust to that. Whatever they want me to do, I'd be happy."

So how'd that one period go?

"I got moved to center right after," Patrick said with a laugh.

Ratcliffe is a big boy
If you saw Isaac Ratcliffe's listed height and thought he was big, wait until you see him up close.

The 6-foot-6 on his bio does not do any justice.

When the Flyers plucked the winger in the second round of last month's draft, that aforementioned height caught everyone's attention.

And on Friday, many fans saw why. Here's Ratcliffe: