Dave Hakstol, sitting in the Flyers suite at United Center, didn’t have much time to form a lot of opinions about Nolan Patrick, the club’s No. 2 overall pick in this weekend’s NHL draft.
This much the Flyers' coach is confident in: the 6-foot-2 forward, who comes from a strong NHL lineage, is going to get every chance to make the Flyers roster this fall.
“He’s a good two-way player, who makes plays,” Hakstol said. “Great physical package in terms of size and strength. Just a chance to meet him real briefly. Impressive young man.”
Patrick’s competitiveness and overall hockey sense impress the Flyers. He will be a valuable addition to a poor Flyer penalty kill unit that needs immediate upgrading.
Scouts were unanimous that Patrick, who turns 19 during training camp, was more NHL-ready than Swiss center Nico Hischier, whom New Jersey selected at No. 1.
“That has to be answered,” Hakstol said of Patrick’s chances to make the team, echoing what general manager Ron Hextall said also this weekend. “There’s a big summer ahead for Nolan. He’s talked about getting himself to 100 percent health and a great summer of training and development.
“That question will be answered as we go through training camp. He’s a real exciting young player. He has a pretty good body of work behind him that says he is awful close [to the NHL].”
Indications from Hextall were that Patrick will play center and won’t be asked to move to the wing where the club has needs. Swedish rookie forward Oskar Lindblom is expected to go immediately to left wing in his debut.
So is Jori Lehtera, who was acquired as part of the Brayden Schenn trade on Friday night. Hakstol cautioned he needed to have a conversation with Lehtera before committing to the move.
Or as Hextall said repeatedly this weekend, “someone has to move to the wing.”
“I need to talk more with him about that,” Hakstol said. “Without starting to predict which guys are potentially going to move from center to wing that is something that is gonna play out. I can’t answer that today. Is there a possibility of that? There is.”
It’s also possible someone else could move to wing.
“That’s reality as we go through camp in the early portion maybe in the season, we have to answer that question,” Hakstol said. “Someone may have to move out of position.
“Who that will be I’m not ready to try and predict that right now. It has to play out over time, see where everybody is at, including Nolan, and some other young guys right there, knocking on the door. Then move from there.”
Hextall reiterated not to count Scott Laughton out of the equation. He said the hard luck Flyer first-round pick made remarkable progress in his overall game with the Phantoms last season and will be pushing for a roster spot.
Hakstol agreed with his GM that more young players on the roster – Lindblom and Travis Konecny to start – will be asked to make up for the 25 goals that the club lost in trading Schenn to St. Louis. Their minutes will rise, accordingly.
“It’s asking a lot,” Hakstol said. “That’s where some of it has to come from. Some of the quality minutes that Brayden Schenn has been in, some of those minutes, not necessarily all, certainly could go to young players.
“Not just a couple guys new to the roster this year, but Travis Konecny, guys like that who can benefit from more minutes in those situations.”
Whether unrestricted free agent Jordan Weal is part of all this remains unanswered. Hextall seemed understandably frustrated as there was no progress toward getting him re-signed this past weekend ahead of free agency which begins at noon on Saturday.
“Weal was a real good player for us and played an important role for our hockey team,” Hakstol said. “That part of the business is yet to take place. Certainly, in my mind, Jordan Weal is an important part of where we want to go.”