Nolan Patrick

The fine balance of Flyers' process will have great say in NHL trade deadline motives

The fine balance of Flyers' process will have great say in NHL trade deadline motives

VOORHEES, N.J. — As Chuck Fletcher watched Philippe Myers push the puck up ice and Travis Sanheim finish with the game-tying third-period goal Monday night, the Flyers’ general manager remembered a key aspect to the organization’s process.

In Fletcher’s first full season as GM, the Flyers have improved and are vying for a return to the playoffs. They entered Tuesday four points out of third place in the Metropolitan Division and holding the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

They are also very young. They’ve played 11 rookies so far and have given numerous auditions to prospects in hopes of solidifying their bottom six.

Nothing has been set in stone as their depth at forward and down the middle remains up in the air, particularly with the absences of Oskar Lindblom (Ewing's sarcoma) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder).

All of which will make the Feb. 24 trade deadline an interesting time for Fletcher in his decisions to either add to the club or trust its younger internal options.

Fletcher got a tip when he saw the 23-year-old Sanheim and 22-year-old Myers deliver a huge goal in the Flyers’ 6-5 shootout win over the Bruins.

“You go back to that 4-on-4 sequence where you have got a couple young defensemen who have had some ups and downs this year,” Fletcher said Tuesday at Flyers Skate Zone. “Sanheim throws the puck to Myers. They are both jumping up there, leading the rush. Myers throws it back to Sanheim. Sanheim goes on a third effort and scores a goal. You kind of get reminded a little bit of the need to be patient with young players.

“That was a tremendous goal. Those are great players on the ice for the Bruins. We’ve got a lot of these kids to grow, so I don’t know that we’re looking to bump too many guys out of key spots right now. Certainly if we can increase our depth, find another guy to help in certain situations, I think we’d be very open to that.”

Cap-wise, the Flyers are not in a favorable position to make a huge acquisition at the trade deadline unless it likely involves current players on the roster, not just draft picks or prospects. The Flyers have only $579,444 in cap space, per CapFriendly.com.

“A lot of teams are up against it,” Fletcher said of the cap. “You have to maybe look at including players in the deal. It’s hard to trade a fourth-round pick for a $4 million player. With our group right now, I don’t know that’s what we’re looking to do. If we can improve our team, we will.

“We're a decent offensive team but the main reason why we're trending better this year is our defensive play."

A couple of in-house players who could once again force the Flyers’ hand — or at least make looking outside not as appealing — are Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost, two of the organization’s top prospects coming into the 2019-20 season.

The 19-year-old Farabee has been with the Flyers for 37 games and plays the right way with an advanced hockey IQ. Currently seeing lesser minutes, Farabee has three goals and 12 points. The 2018 first-round pick is regarded as a point-producing winger. If he can provide a lift in secondary scoring, the Flyers can feel more comfortable pushing forward without external help.

“We've been talking to teams all year to see if that's a way we can improve, that makes sense,” Fletcher said. “But clearly, I think over time, the young guys will get better. I mean, Joel Farabee's got three goals this year. My guess is he won't have three goals this time next year.

“He's obviously going to get better and better. … So young guys tend to take those steps. Will it be this year? I don't know, I think it's going to be a little bit of both.

“The thing with Joel is his game is so much more advanced than the other kids away from the puck and defensively. He's one of our best forwards in terms of puck management and game management.”

Frost gave the Flyers an offensive jolt in November and is now back with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley for further development and to regain some confidence. After scoring two goals and three points in his first two NHL games, the 20-year-old center had four points (all assists) over his final 16 games.

The 2017 first-round pick’s ability to make plays down the middle can potentially help the Flyers both offensively and with lineup flexibility.

“If he's the best player and deserves to be here, he'll be here,” Fletcher said. “We have been trying to balance that long-term development versus short-term help for the Flyers and there's been a lot of juggling.

“Hopefully over the next couple weeks he continues to grow, build that and feel good about his game. You love bringing kids up when they feel good about their game, when they're in a good spot.”

With the deadline nearing, the Flyers won’t lose focus on development, but they will have to find out if their kids are enough to make the present about the playoffs again.

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Chris Stewart, Kevin Hayes building bonds with Nolan Patrick through support

Chris Stewart, Kevin Hayes building bonds with Nolan Patrick through support

Chris Stewart is 32 years old and worked his butt off to return to the NHL after a yearlong hiatus in which he played 23 games for the EIHL’s Nottingham Panthers. 

He does not take wearing an NHL jersey for granted.

“It’s the National Hockey League, it’s a blessing to be here, it’s a privilege to be here,” Stewart said last week. “That year away definitely changed my perspective on life.”

In his 11th NHL season, he often finds himself in the shadows, when few are watching. During those unglamorous moments, Stewart has grown close to a 21-year-old who was picked second overall in the 2017 draft by the Flyers.

While a fierce competitor like Stewart would love to be playing, the byproduct of not suiting up every game is his support for Nolan Patrick through trying times. Patrick has battled a daily fight with a migraine disorder. As Stewart stays ready and vies for a spot in the Flyers’ lineup, Patrick joins him in pursuit of playing again.

Patrick has yet to play in 2019-20. He was diagnosed with the migraine disorder in September and last week called the recovery process “sh---y” and “pretty wavy.”

Stewart has played in nine of the Flyers’ first 30 games, serving mostly as a healthy scratch. Instead of wearing a scowl across his face, he is persistently positive — especially for Patrick.

“I’m not in the lineup right now and he’s hurt, so it’s oddly that we’re spending a lot of time together — working out together, skating together every morning,” Stewart said. “For me personally, I’m just trying to be positive for him. Toughest job in the league is being hurt and not playing. You get caught up trying to look at the big picture every night as opposed to just looking at the small picture — what do I’ve got to do today, what do I’ve got to do next. Then that building up over time, hopefully you start feeling better.”

Recently, Patrick has been skating more, getting in work with the Flyers’ healthy scratches, skills coach Angelo Ricci and the assistants.

I’m just trying to be a positive reinforcement in his life. You can tell, he wears a lot on his shoulders and he wants to play. He has his good days and his bad. Our worst day is someone’s best day. You look at the bigger aspects of life, it’s not that big of a deal. He’s coming along nicely. I noticed since he’s been back, he’s upbeat, his energy, you can see his glow starting to come back in his face, so it’s good.

- Stewart

(Charles LeClaire, USA Today Images/Zack Hill, Philadelphia Flyers)

When Stewart was scoring a career-high 64 points with the Avalanche in 2009-10, Patrick was only 11 years old.

The 2006 first-round pick of Colorado has played 661 games and scored 322 points (160 goals, 162 assists) between seven NHL teams.

Patrick is grateful to have a guy like that in his corner.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with him,” Patrick said last week. “He’s helped me stay positive, he always brings a good energy, so it’s nice to have him around.

“He’s helped me a lot through it. I can’t really thank my teammates enough.”

Stewart didn’t grind his way back to the NHL to be complacent with watching. He’s hungry to have an impact in games. However, he understands the concept of team.

It’s bigger than him.

“We’re all playing for the same goal, everybody wants to play,” Stewart said. “If you’re not playing, there’s part of a leadership role, accountability and things that you’ve got to buy into and take pride into. I’d give anything to be playing out there with my teammates but if I can’t, I’m going to do what I can to bring the energy in the room and be that guy for the boys.

“Internal competition is only healthy for the team. Everybody is good enough but you can only dress 12 guys. Whoever is in that night is going to give a hell of an effort and if you’re not, cheer them on.”

That mindset is part of why the Flyers were intrigued by the veteran winger this offseason, bringing Stewart into camp on a pro tryout and signing him Oct. 15.

“Stewie has been around the NHL a long time, he knows what it takes to play and stay at this level,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said last week. “His reputation, and rightfully so, is a great team guy. … I’m happy that Nolan feels the same way. Stewie is a good influence in a dressing room.”

And a great influence for Patrick. 

We talk all the time, when we’re on the road, we keep in contact, like to check in on him every couple days about the stuff that he’s going through.

Let him know that I’m here, just be a shoulder to lean on, to talk to, an open door and that’s how we’ve been.

- Stewart

(Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Images)

Alongside Stewart, Kevin Hayes was also one of the fresh faces in the Flyers’ locker room entering the 2019-20 season.

After signing a seven-year, $50 million contract in June, Hayes has settled in with his new team and surroundings, also becoming one of the Flyers’ alternate captains.

He has built a bond with Patrick away from the ice as the two live together.

“He’s a great kid, a young guy,” Hayes said last week. “I bought a place here that’s pretty big to live by myself and invited him in. He’s been great. He’s a professional, he handles himself the right way. He’s been traveling a lot with seeing some doctors and stuff, but we pretty much see each other every day.

“We’re pretty tight. It’s not easy being a new guy here on the team and living with him makes it a lot easier. I feel super comfortable now with where I’m at, but earlier in the season, it was a little different. We spend a lot of time together, he’s a great kid. We’ve had different type of upbringings but we’ve definitely become pretty close this year.”

Patrick played 73 games his rookie year and 72 last season. He expects to play in 2019-20 but there’s no set date for his return as this type of recovery process can be difficult to predict, specifically timeframe-wise.

While Patrick and the Flyers attempt to find what works for the third-year center, Hayes sees the process in which his teammate goes through on a day-to-day basis.

I’ve been lucky enough to kind of not have a serious injury in this league and I hope I don’t ever have to go through something like that. I’m sure it’s never fun to be away from the guys. The best part about playing on a sports team is going to battle with your teammates — that’s how you build friendships around here. 

I’m sure he’s doing everything in his power to get back. I mean, I’m witnessing it firsthand. I think the biggest thing for him is getting correct with his head and then going from there.

- Hayes

Just like Stewart, Hayes wants to be there for Patrick — on and off the ice.

“We’ve all had to deal with stuff in our lives before,” Hayes said. “You can tell when someone is up or down. He handles it on his own way. I’m a pretty outgoing person, I can kind of figure out when he wants to talk and when he wants to just go hang out and chill in his room. I don’t really push anything too much on him, he’s a great kid and it’s been a blast living with him.”

(AP Images/Philadelphia Flyers/USA Today Images)

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As he deals with migraine disorder, Flyers' Nolan Patrick expects to play in 2019-20 season

As he deals with migraine disorder, Flyers' Nolan Patrick expects to play in 2019-20 season

Nolan Patrick wishes he had more answers.

Unfortunately for Patrick, the questions facing him have not been easy to answer.

Far from simple, the furthest from predictable.

The emotions and frustrations stemming from Patrick's migraine disorder were transparent on the 21-year-old's face Tuesday morning at the Wells Fargo Center.

He would love to know why the day-to-day recovery process has been "up and down, pretty wavy," as he put it. He wants to feel better, wants to play hockey.

He wishes he knew more, just like you. He is hopeful, though, as the Flyers enter December.

I expect to play this year.

I’m hoping to get back soon. I believe I’ll play this year and that’s something I’m trying to stick with.

I’m not going to get into too much detail, but there are obviously a lot of things that I’ve had to change. It’s obviously an annoying process, it’s sh---y, so hopefully get back soon.

There’s no timeframe. It’s tough to say.

Patrick missed training camp/preseason and has not played in 2019-20 after being diagnosed with the migraine disorder in September. He hasn't practiced with the Flyers since the end of October, when he was starting to do so in a non-contact jersey.

But Patrick has gotten back to doing on-ice work recently, including Tuesday morning with the Flyers' healthy scratches and goalie Carter Hart.

“He is progressing, he is doing more off ice, workouts, and he is skating a little bit more on his own, so hopefully it’s a positive sign," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "That’s all I can really tell you, I don’t know much more than that.

“He has been skating a lot more frequently on his own. Exactly where that brings us, I don’t know.”

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

On Sept. 26, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said, "The doctor feels that there's a regimen you can put him on and with medication, we can control the situation and we're hopeful."

Finding what works can be a process, as the Flyers and Patrick have noted.

Obviously there’s a certain amount of time you give each treatment plan before you go in a different direction. It’s been tough, it’s not fun watching. Hopefully I get back soon. ... I’m not just sitting around doing nothing. We’ve tried a bunch of stuff.

A migraine disorder causes more than just headaches. Patrick said he and the Flyers are "trying to put together more good days in a row than bad."

You’ve got to have a baseline of how much you can do. If I feel good doing that for a week, then I elevate a little more. There’s a plan in place, but it’s basically just off how I feel.

The strength coaches and training staff try to put together a program for me, but like I said before, at the end of the day, it’s how I’m feeling that day. If I’m not feeling great, we’ll just pump the brakes a little bit.

Not playing probably, sitting out, being away from the team — that’s probably the worst part of [the process].

As Patrick works his way back, searching for more answers, he has been appreciative of the support from teammates and others.

“My teammates have been amazing through it," Patrick said. "Everyone is super supportive. It’s a tough thing to go through, you’re kind of by yourself for a lot of it. My teammates are doing a great job making me feel a part of the team.

“I’ve talked to Dan Carcillo a bit about stuff like that. My teammates have been great, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Chris Stewart, so he’s helped me a lot through it. I can’t really thank my teammates enough.”

 

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