Flyers

Flyers' trade for Kevin Hayes could be major victory for Nolan Patrick's development

Flyers' trade for Kevin Hayes could be major victory for Nolan Patrick's development

Nolan Patrick entered the 2018-19 season as a freshly-turned 20-year-old facing hefty expectations.

Fair or not, that can be life as a No. 2 overall draft pick.

Patrick was coming off a healthy summer and his first NHL season in which he turned it on down the stretch to help the Flyers clinch a playoff berth. Many pinned him as the team's No. 2 center and predicted a breakout sophomore season of production well surpassing his 30-point rookie year.

It didn't happen. From a numbers standpoint, Patrick scored 31 points and played one fewer game than he did as a rookie. His spurts of brilliance were often overshadowed by prolonged slumps in which he blended in with the rest.

"I feel like there have been points where I've played the way I can and have had a big impact on games," Patrick said in April after the Flyers' season ended. "Then there are also stretches where I haven't been good enough and I haven't been playing the way I can. I think that's just strictly a confidence thing and staying confident throughout the year."

Which brings us to Kevin Hayes. One has to wonder if Patrick's confidence and role were on the mind of general manager Chuck Fletcher when he traded for Hayes, an impending unrestricted free agent, on Monday night (see story)

"I would suggest there are 27, 28 teams that would probably like to find a No. 1 or No. 2 centerman. It's a hard thing to find," Fletcher said in April. "Certainly if you can find a top centerman, I think any team should jump on it. We'll certainly look, but Nolan has the capability of being a No. 2 centerman."

If the Flyers are able to sign Hayes, the acquisition has the makings of a springboard for Patrick's growth. Less pressure, less responsibility can help Patrick. Now, he could have more time and room to reach those capabilities.

Patrick isn't the first 20-year-old to fight confidence. His psyche, though, is crucial to his physical game. A key to this offseason was adding down the middle — not just for depth, but also for Patrick.

Interestingly, another center in the picture doesn't pigeonhole Patrick. Instead, it provides the Flyers with greater options to drive his development forward. 

They'll have better opportunities to mix and match with Patrick. He can play on the third line next to Oskar Lindblom and another offensive-minded winger, possibly a youngster or an offseason acquisition. When his offense is clicking, he can climb back to the second unit with more talent and scoring accountability. He also saw some positive results this season playing alongside Claude Giroux when the Flyers tried spreading the wealth a bit.

Having Patrick not feel the weight of being a focal point from the outset should be a focus for the Flyers. It likely played into the thought process of the Hayes trade.

"It's really tough. Eighty-two games is a lot, especially in this league," Patrick said of the NHL grind. "It's demanding on your body and your mind. I think when you have teammates like we do, it's easy to stay positive and have fun when we come to the rink.

"I try to have big summers training-wise and come in ready. I felt like I was in great shape when I got here. I think it's just a mental thing, maybe overthinking it too much."

Hayes can help the Flyers. He's 27 and scored a career-high 25 goals last season and a career-high 55 points this season, despite being traded at the Feb. 25 deadline.

Better yet, what he could do for a young Patrick would make everyone forget about a 2019 fifth-round pick lost in the process.

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Watch here as Gritty goes full savage mode on the Houston Astros

Watch here as Gritty goes full savage mode on the Houston Astros

Wait, wait ... Gritty did what?

The past few weeks in MLB may go down as some of the craziest the league and fans have ever witnessed.  

And just about everyone has voiced their opinions on the matter ... and now it looks like Gritty has, too.

That's right, everyone's favorite mascot decided to go full savage mode and trade in his infamous drum for a trash can during the Flyers' win over the Penguins on Tuesday.

What was on the trash can, you ask?

Why, it's the Astros' logo on all four sides.

Way to go Gritty, you just broke the sports world once more (don't worry, we love it).

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After shutting out Sidney Crosby, Penguins, Flyers have taken down NHL's top 4 teams in span of 14 days

After shutting out Sidney Crosby, Penguins, Flyers have taken down NHL's top 4 teams in span of 14 days

BOX SCORE

The Flyers will confidently go into their NHL-mandated Jan. 22-30 bye week knowing that they can beat the best teams in the NHL.

Especially after shutting out the Penguins, 3-0, Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Over a span of 14 days, the Flyers have taken down the Capitals, Bruins, Blues and Penguins — the top four clubs in the NHL standings.

The Flyers (27-17-6) improved to 9-2-3 against the Metropolitan Division after going 10-16-2 against divisional opponents last season.

Alain Vigneault’s team is three points out of third place in the division, while the 60 points overall are the Flyers’ most through 50 games since 2011-12, when they started 30-14-6 and last won a playoff series.

The Penguins (31-14-5) were shut out for just the second time this season.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill has gone 25 for 28 over the last seven games, which included matchups with the Capitals, Lightning, Bruins, Blues and Penguins.

The Flyers went 5-2-0 during that stretch, in large thanks to the improved PK this season.

• Travis Konecny is surging into his first All-Star Game.

Through 47 games, the 22-year-old already has a new career high in assists with 26 after feeding James van Riemsdyk during the second period to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.

At second intermission, Konecny sung the praises of Claude Giroux, who started the whole sequence.

"Everyone looks at the play when the goal happened, but it was one of the nicest plays that G has ever made was that play,” Konecny said. “It is such a heads-up play to lay the puck into an area like that."

Konecny is eight goals and seven points away from setting new career highs across the board.

Meanwhile, the new line of van Riemsdyk, Giroux and Konecny has starred in two games. Suffice it to say Giroux will be staying at center for at least a little longer.

• Jakub Voracek has looked like a force for a lengthy stretch.

Over his last 28 games going back to Nov. 23, the 30-year-old winger has put up 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) and a plus-14 rating.

Nobody can get on him for his defense right now. If you’ve watched, you’ve seen him skate, forecheck and make plays in the offensive zone on a nightly basis.

“Jake is coming on, like he tends to do,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said last Tuesday. “I remember when I got the job here last year, they were talking about how Jake was struggling and he had a pretty big second half, so he seems to be finding his legs.”

• Since returning from core muscle surgery, Sidney Crosby had eight points (three goals, five assists) in four games, while Evgeni Malkin had gone scoreless only twice over his last 19 games, a stretch in which he had put up 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists).

The Flyers held both stars scoreless and to only three shots.

• Brian Elliott has won three straight with 83 saves on 87 shots.

He has been terrific in Carter Hart’s absence.

Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, who entered 11-3-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .929 save percentage over his last 15 games, made 27 saves on 29 shots.

• Kevin Hayes has been a treat to watch on the penalty kill. Instead of quickly clearing the puck, which allows the opposing power play to restart, the 6-foot-5 center will often hold onto the puck to milk more seconds and force the opposition to take it away from him.

The strategy worked perfectly in the first period against the Penguins.

Since 2016-17, Hayes is fourth among all NHL players in shorthanded points with 14 (seven goals, seven assists), behind only Brad Marchand (17), Michael Grabner (16) and William Karlsson (15).

With each game, we’re seeing more and more why.

• Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins and catcher J.T. Realmuto took in the rivalry showdown.

Konecny will represent the Flyers at the NHL All-Star festivities this weekend in St. Louis.

The Flyers are off until next Thursday when they practice at 2 p.m. in Voorhees, New Jersey, before visiting the Penguins that Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

 

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