VOORHEES, N.J. — Nolan Patrick couldn’t even remember how long it had been since he enjoyed a healthy offseason.
For the first time since 2015, the Philadelphia Flyers forward didn’t need offseason surgery. He had sports hernia surgery after the 2015-16 season, and abdominal muscle surgery on June 13, 2017, shortly before the Flyers selected him with the No. 2 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.
But after he finished last season with two points (one goal, one assist) in six games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round, he took a month off and went right back to work.
“It was nice to go hard all summer and not have any limitations,” Patrick said after an informal skate at the Flyers practice facility on Wednesday. “This summer felt good. I had a good summer and I’m excited for [training] camp.”
Video: Flyers will continue to grow in the 2018-19 season
Patrick, who turns 20 on Sept. 19, said his workout regimen was entirely different from previous summers because he was able to do things as basic as running, which had aggravated his abdominal injuries.
“I could do everything this summer,” he said. “Pushed myself pretty hard. Wanted to improve everything, get stronger, faster, work on my shot. I kind of tried to cover all areas. … I feel really good; feel like I had a good summer.”
Now Patrick is focused on carrying those good feelings into his second NHL season.
Some of that will come from building on his productive second half; Patrick had 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in his final 33 regular-season games after he had nine points (three goals, six assists) in his first 40 games.
Part of his early struggles could be blamed on recovery from the abdominal muscle surgery and a concussion sustained against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24 that kept him out three weeks.
“You get more comfortable as my body started feeling better,” he said. “I got more confident, started playing better. Then you get more opportunities when you start playing better.”
His improved play was rewarded by Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who increased Patrick’s ice time from 12:14 in his first 40 games to 15:32 in the final 33, to 16:38 per game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I think the biggest area of growth was his growth in confidence,” Hakstol said. “There was a flip of the switch with him, and it’s typical of a young, skilled player adjusting to the League. There’s a time period where all of a sudden he wanted that puck on his stick. Instead of looking to get it and move it and make a quick play, [it] just felt like there was a time period as we hit the middle of the year, just his overall command with the puck and wanting to have the puck on his tape and the confidence with the puck on his tape, that was a huge area of growth. As soon as that happened, as soon as that clicked, he was really effective for us.”
The next step for Patrick could be playing full-time on the second line with left wing James van Riemsdyk, who signed a five-year contract July 1.
Video: Impact of James van Riemsdyk on the power play
Van Riemsdyk said playing with a right-shot center like Patrick would benefit him in his adjustment to a new team. Last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, van Riemsdyk played with right-shooting Tyler Bozak as his center and scored a personal NHL-best 36 goals.
Patrick said having a left-shooting left wing would be good for him too.
“It’s easier throwing the puck to the outside there when it’s a lefty not a righty, taking it on his forehand instead of his backhand,” Patrick said. “[Van Riemsdyk] is a special player so if you have a chance to play with him, it would make the game easier for you.”
Having a fully healthy offseason to prepare, rather than rehabilitate from surgery, also could make things easier for Patrick this season.
“That’s so important for a player, especially for a young player,” Hakstol said. “[It’s] so important to be able to have that time. I’ve been able to talk a few times with Nolan; he’s got a great routine, he’s feeling really good. I think it’s going to pay huge dividends for him and our team.”