Much has been made of Nolan Patrick's absence and justifiably so.
The 21-year-old center was the 2017 second overall draft pick, which creates unavoidable expectations that consistently hover. Patrick, who has a considerable injury history early into his career, will miss the beginning of the regular season because of a migraine disorder. He was unable to make the team's trip to Europe and did not participate in any preseason games or full training camp practices.
He's a notable piece to the Flyers' process and future.
There's another forward battling an injury — he's much less known among Flyers fans, much more in the shadows, but important to the Flyers' depth this season.
Meet Tyler Pitlick.
His situation has been trying. He was shocked when the Stars traded him to the Flyers in June. He has undergone two surgeries on his left wrist in less than seven months. The second procedure has kept him out of preseason games and the majority of training camp practices.
"It's been pretty brutal actually," he said Wednesday about not being a part of things. "New team, new set of guys, you want to be with them and getting to know them and everything. I've been doing my best to be around them in meetings and all that stuff, but for the most part, I've been on my own page, doing my treatment, skating on my own, hanging out with the trainers."
With the injuries to Patrick and Pitlick, the Flyers could open the regular season with three rookie forwards in their lineup. No matter how ready Joel Farabee, Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski are, that's a lot of rookies.
It makes Pitlick and his recovery timeline awfully important as the Flyers try to avert another slow start. The 27-year-old made the trip to Europe. Will he play in next Friday's season opener against the Blackhawks?
"I have no idea," Pitlick said. "It's not totally up to me. It's up to the medical guys."
Prior to the Flyers' departure Friday night, Pitlick had started practicing while wearing a white non-contact jersey.
"I think it's getting closer to 80 [percent], so that's good," Pitlick said. "It's going to go quick, now I'm really starting to strengthen it, it's coming along fast. It'll be here before we know it.
"It's just the strength — grip test between my right and left. I'm getting there."
In 2017-18, Pitlick's only full NHL season, he was productive with the Stars. The winger put up 14 goals, 27 points and a plus-9 rating in 13:41 ice time per game. He was also one of the team's top penalty kill forwards and delivered 122 hits.
The 6-foot, 200-pound, north-south skater has the essentials to supplement the Flyers' tougher-to-play against mentality.
"I'm sure they're wondering what they're going to get out of me and they'd like to see me in the camp setting," Pitlick said. "But I feel like I've gotten better and better each day that I've been on the ice, I'm feeling pretty good. Once I'm feeling like the wrist is 100 percent and I can go out there and hit someone, I think they're going to like that even more."
Pitlick knows the production is there. He's only 27 years old and has that one full season. It's a matter of staying healthy.
"It's kind of been how it's gone for me my whole career," he said. "Kind of get going and something happens. It's always a fluke thing. I don't think I'm like injury prone, it's like weird things that have happened to me, just fluky things.
"It's tough, it sucks, but I feel like I stay healthy, there's no reason I can't score 15 goals. I had 14 that year and I had eight last year with a shortened season, was on pace to get the same. I think I can keep that up and if I get it rolling, I can do more than 15. I definitely can score some goals and I'm excited to get started."
When he gets started, the Flyers will have more roster decisions to make. Pitlick is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2019-20 season.
His time with the Flyers is now and not for the shadows.
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