The Fine Line Between Health and High Expectations for Nolan Patrick

By Jeff Quake, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

As a first-round pick, there are going to be high expectations. As a Top-10 pick, there are going to be higher expectations. However, if you’re the second overall pick in a draft, you are going to have to exceed some of the highest expectations imaginable.

That’s the case for Philadelphia Flyers forward Nolan Patrick, who was drafted at that spot in the 2017 NHL Draft. Despite making the team right out of camp, Patrick has only played 145 games out of a possible 233 NHL games. Due to injuries, and now his migraine disorder that was announced back in September, Patrick has only played in 62 percent of possible games with the Orange and Black. In those 145 games played, the 21-year-old has scored 13 goals in each of his first two seasons, while tacking on 17 and 18 assists respectively. In total, he has scored 61 points, as well as 2 points in six career playoff games.

Although his numbers don’t show it, the Manitoba native has shown flashes of greatness. His puck handling skills, and playmaking ability will make him a great threat to play against further down the road. That, however, is the next question. With Patrick not playing a single game this year in 2019-2020, when will he return?

That million-dollar question that everyone wanted answered was brought up by GM Chuck Fletcher when he spoke to the media on Monday. Patrick was not on the Flyers Phase 3 roster. His season is over.

“Our focus is on getting him ready for the 2020-2021 season," Fletcher said. "We want to be prudent and prioritize his health and safety in the long run. We have a short run way here before we jump right into playoff hockey."

Since April 2, 2019, Patrick has not played an NHL game including the 142-day pause during the pandemic. Overall, he has missed 470 days.

After news broke that Patrick was diagnosed with the migraine disorder, one of the other important questions was asked back in September. Are the migraines connected in any way to a few plays that previously happened regarding Patrick's concussion history?

“The doctors don't believe so. I can't fully speak for the doctors," Fletcher said. "Clearly at the end of last season, he took a slap shot in the neck area, back of the head area, in Long Island. He felt good after that and sometime in the summer, he let us know that he was having headaches from time to time. It wasn't constant. We've spent time, Nolan spent the time, trying to get to the root of it. I think we feel comfortable now that it's a migraine issue. It's not a concussion, according to the doctors. Nolan does have a history of migraines, going back to when he was younger — he had some in minor hockey, in junior hockey. There's a family history, as well. I think at this point; he feels relieved to know what it is. It's been periodic migraines and cluster headaches throughout the summer and I think he was concerned and we were concerned. 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.”

Fletcher isn’t the only one concerned about Patrick’s health, and when he can jump back on the ice. His teammate Jake Voracek spoke to the media back in February about what it could be like that Patrick is going through.

"I don’t think many of us can imagine what he has to go through," Voracek said. "Third year, contract year, expecting big things out of him and all of a sudden you’re out for three quarters of a season. It’s really hard mentally. When he’s going to come back, I’m sure it’s going to make him stronger because it’s really hard to go through. I can’t wait to see him back on the ice during a game.”

Even Patrick himself spoke to the Philadelphia media at one point in December with high expectations as well. He said he expected to play this year and was hoping to get back soon. However, with no timeframe it was tough to say. It’s even more difficult to say during the COVID-19 pandemic causing the season to be delayed. Patrick, did however take part in skills practices and skated in the weeks leading up to the pause, which was a tremendous sight to see.

Migraines are not to be taken lightly. For those who have never had one, here is what it’s like to go through one. You could have little to no energy when you receive a migraine, and when that happens the only thing that crosses your mind is that you want to go to bed and just sleep. The pain in your head could be caused anything, however if you through a concussion or two — as part of the injury history for Patrick, let alone anyone — those migraines occur more often. A migraine disorder could put someone through weekly migraines let alone multiple migraines throughout the week. Other symptoms that can be caused by migraines besides fatigue include vomiting, sensitivity to noise and a pulsating and pounding pain going through your head.

Obviously, Patrick has high expectations for himself, as he is a natural competitor. The fans of Philadelphia are known for being hard on their players if they don’t perform well. They have the highest standards of their teams no matter what sport it is because that’s Philadelphia. These diehard fans will always support and love their teams no matter what. But by the end of the day, what matters most is the health of a 21-year-old hockey player. It is a physically and mentally brutal process that Patrick is going through. Although he is attempting to get back out on the ice as soon as he can, he needs to be cautious with the violent sport we all know and love if he wants a long, and successful NHL career.