The trade deadline is quickly approaching for the NHL, and around this time, it’s important to have a general understanding of what the roster would look like heading into the final stretch of the season. With the Flyers in the tightest division in the league, that need is amplified. While things for the most part seem stable, the clear level of uncertainty with Nolan Patrick still resides and remains unknown.
Not much has changed since the news of Patrick’s migraine disorder in late September — but the 21-year-old remains hopeful moving forward.
What’s different now is the fact Patrick is back on the ice with his teammates and it appears to be happening consistently. Even though he is not cleared for contact just yet, the simple element of him skating with the team has had quite an impact on the center.
“For the mental side of things, it’s way nicer to be around your teammates,” Patrick told reporters following Monday’s practice. “Obviously, it’s been a lot of fun to come back. It’s fun for me to just be around the guys.”
Patrick has also had discussions with other players who have dealt with similar things, which has also seemed to help him.
“It’s tough being alone,” Patrick said. “Being by yourself throughout the process and not being around the team.”
This is something that clearly differs from a physical body injury — such as a broken bone or a muscle strain. With those injuries comes an indication of when a player could possibly return. With Patrick’s case, it’s an ongoing process. And though it seems like progress is being made, there’s still no clear light at the end of the tunnel.
“It hasn’t been a fast process,” Patrick said. “It’s not like one day I just wake up and it’s a crazy difference, this whole process. I don’t have a timetable, and when I do, you guys will know.”
There’s clear frustration from Patrick, who just wants to be able to help his team. And even once he receives the go-ahead to be cleared for contact, there are multiple steps that need to be taken before he’s game-ready. Patrick, his doctors and the team have made sure to take their time with things — there’s no reason to rush it now when there’s steady progress and the team currently holds a playoff spot.
After he’s cleared for contact, a conditioning stint with the AHL affiliate team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, would be the next step.
“If I were you, I would only get excited about Nolan being around us once he gets sent to Lehigh Valley,” head coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. “Because that means that he’s getting close. Lehigh Valley means that he’s going down there for conditioning, to get some games in.”
Does Vigneault believe Patrick is close to heading to Allentown for said stint?
“I have no idea," he said.
Luckily for the Flyers, the combination of youth and veteran players have solidified the lineup and were able to fill what in previous years, would have been quite a significant gap, if any top player were out.
While having Patrick back would add even more depth down the middle for the Flyers, they’ve found a way to make it work until that discussion becomes tangible. Take that as a win-win on both ends of things, as this relieves the pressure off of Patrick, so he can focus on what needs to be done in order to get back to game-ready.
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