VOORHEES, N.J. — The matchups were just over a month apart but James van Riemsdyk could still notice a contrast in confidence.
Nolan Patrick was getting comfortable … and healthy.
The 19-year-old went scoreless in his first meeting with van Riemsdyk's Maple Leafs last season. Thirty-eight days later, the rookie saw Toronto again, scored his first goal in 25 games and helped notch a 3-2 overtime win.
Nolan Patrick with the effort goal as he scores for the first time in 25 games.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 19, 2018
Presented by @SkiJFBB. pic.twitter.com/Bha6uCa78Y
This offseason, JVR remembered when making his call on where to sign, a decision that included 12 teams after his services.
"Certainly, when you are looking at places to play, you want to play with good players," van Riemsdyk said Saturday on Day 2 of Flyers training camp. "I thought that there were lots of good players to play with here.
"Getting to see [Patrick's] growth over the course of last season, even from afar, but the few times I would play him, I remembered later in the year, he was more confident and comfortable. That's usually what happens. He's a real talented and skilled player — has a lot of tools."
Patrick's tools are now in the middle of van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek. The 2017 second overall pick has centered the two over the first few days of training camp, a group that could very well be the Flyers' second line come opening night Oct. 4.
"It's exciting when you sign a guy of that caliber," Patrick said. "Obviously, he's an unbelievable player and he's had a great career so far. Huge addition for our team. If you get a chance to play with a guy like that, it's pretty special."
A 36-goal scorer in 2017-18, van Riemsdyk was the second-biggest name on the free-agent market to only John Tavares. Surround him with Patrick and Voracek, both dangerous passers who see the ice, and the Flyers have a trio of players that could play on a first line comprising their second unit.
"We think that that group has a chance to be together three weeks from now, so let's give it an early look," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Friday. "It takes time to build chemistry, even if all the pieces seem to make sense together, it still takes time to build that chemistry."
Patrick is fresh off a full summer of training, something he hasn't been able to say the past two offseasons because of surgery and recovery (see story).
How good does he feel compared to years past?
"I would say it's the best I've felt," Patrick said.
"Yeah," he said.
As an opponent, van Riemsdyk saw it in the works.
Now, he's getting the best and more.