VOORHEES, N.J. — Jakub Voracek rattled off the oppressiveness of Nolan Patrick's situation.
Voracek knew it all. He feels for Patrick.
At 21 years old, Patrick has been dealt a heavy blow of adversity and the timing couldn't be much worse. The 2017 second overall draft pick is set to become a restricted free agent in the offseason. After playing 145 games over his first two seasons, he has not played a game in 2019-20 as he fights a daily battle with a migraine disorder.
This was not how he envisioned setting up his future with the Flyers. An injury and recovery that are hard to predict have made what's next awfully difficult to foresee.
"I don’t think many of us can imagine what he has to go through," Voracek said Wednesday. "Third year, contract year, expecting big things out of him and all of a sudden you’re out for three quarters of a season. It’s really hard mentally. When he’s going to come back, I’m sure it’s going to make him stronger because it’s really hard to go through. I can’t wait to see him back on the ice during a game.”
There was a small but positive sign Wednesday when Patrick joined the Flyers for a skills practice. Although it wasn't an intense, contact, game preparation practice, Patrick skating with the full team can only strengthen his outlook. He hasn't practiced with the Flyers since the end of October, when he was starting to do so in a non-contact jersey.
During December, Patrick mentioned how his teammates "have been amazing" in support.
"I can’t really thank my teammates enough," he said.
How have the Flyers gone about that support? Just being there, treating him like one of the guys.
Not ask him how he feels," Voracek said. "It’s annoying. I know when I went through my concussions, ‘How you feel?’ Every single day, you’ve got 30 questions on how you’re feeling, then you get home and you’re tired of it, then your mother is asking you how you feel. That’s the way it is.
I don’t know where he stands, I don’t want to ask him that much because everybody’s asking him and I know how annoying it gets after everyone is asking you how you feel.
So when he wants to talk, just talk to him. If he doesn’t feel all right, just kind of let him be, let him figure it out and let him fight through it. There’s a sign that it’s getting better because he’s been out there, so that’s good.
The Flyers enjoyed seeing Patrick smiling and practicing Wednesday.
“It’s always great to see Patty," Claude Giroux said. "He looks good on the ice, he’s got a skill set that not a lot of guys have.
“He’s going through a lot. As teammates, probably the worst thing is you can’t really do anything to help him. You want to see him back in the lineup, it’s been tough. We try to support him, but at the same time, you don’t want to be asking him every day how he’s feeling, it gets kind of annoying. He’s a really good guy, great kid. Good things are going to happen.
"I feel the last few weeks or so, he’s been looking pretty good. That kind of injury, you don’t really know how to evaluate it or know if it’s getting better or what. We’re all on the same page, same team, just supporting our teammate. Hopefully he gets back soon."
Nolan Patrick through the legs to James van Riemsdyk. pic.twitter.com/nt3xines5i— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) February 5, 2020
While there is no specific timeframe for his return, Patrick and the Flyers have said the expectation is for him to play this season. The Flyers know how important Patrick could be to their lineup as 29 games remain in the playoff push. Patrick provides size, skill and smarts down the middle, where the Flyers don't feature a ton of depth, forcing Giroux to shift back to center and creating constant change on the fourth line.
“He’s a big part of our team that when he comes back, he’s going to be a huge, huge boost," Voracek said. "So I’m excited to get him back.
"He’s a great kid, still young. Great kid, great teammate."
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