Replacing Wayne Simmonds on the power play may be one of the toughest assignments in the NHL.
After all, the guy is second to only Alex Ovechkin with 85 man-advantage goals since the 2011-12 season.
So when the predicament actually faced Dave Hakstol this week, the Flyers' head coach turned to … a 19-year-old rookie.
Why Nolan Patrick?
Three components of the decision stand out:
Leading up the NHL draft, the overwhelming strength of Patrick's scouting report was his hockey sense.
Those close to him, as well as draft experts, lauded Patrick for comprehending plays before they even happen and being above the ice in understanding spacing.
Those characteristics are crucial when having an extra man.
Patrick has two goals over two games filling in for the injured Simmonds on the Flyers' top power-play unit. Patrick exhibited his IQ with Thursday's game-winner, where he quickly planted himself right in front of the net, had the presence of mind to find the puck and then bury it past Sergei Bobrovsky.
"We told him, just stand in front, if you see a puck, bring it home," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We tried to simplify it for him and he's going to take care of it himself, he's a great hockey player. It's paying off for him."
Ghost with the shot and Nolan with the tap-in!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) February 23, 2018
Flyers lead 2-1 in the third! pic.twitter.com/dikc1Bwbta
All about the touch
Patrick has excellent hands.
Put him around the net, and he'll know how to deflect pucks and find holes in a goalie. His vision, skill and finesse are why he's regarded as such an all-around playmaker.
In Tuesday's win, Patrick found immediate success with the first power-play group. Making his way to the middle, Patrick took a Claude Giroux pass and showed off that touch, adeptly going top shelf as Carey Price went low.
Studying Simmonds' net-front proficiency hasn't hurt, either.
"I watch him every game, he's unbelievable there and good at tipping pucks and making plays," Patrick said. "You learn from just watching every day."
Building up the kid
With time, Hakstol and the Flyers have allowed for Patrick to become comfortable instead of putting the world on his shoulders from the get-go.
That's part of Patrick's makeup.
"He almost always wants to be comfortable and then he really starts to exert himself," Patrick's uncle, James, said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last June.
We're starting to see Patrick let loose.
As the Flyers have gradually upped his opportunity and responsibility, Patrick has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last 12 games after putting up six (two goals, four assists) over his previous 34.
Placing Patrick among the team's best talent on the man advantage will only help with his confidence moving forward, in all situations.
The Flyers' power play entered Friday with the NHL's sixth-best percentage at 21.6.
It'll need more of Patrick — but the Flyers couldn't have asked for a much better start to life without Simmonds over the next two to three weeks.