Months ago Brandon Wheat Kings star prospect Nolan Patrick was the near consensus first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Through a season of injuries and a fantastic campaign by the Swiss standout, Nico Hischier is starting to find his way to the top of draft boards.
So what do you do if you have the first pick overall this summer? Patrick’s two-way game and 6-foot-3 frame seemed to make him a safe top pick before the injuries, but Hischier’s hockey IQ and elite offensive skills make him look like another Jonathan Drouin. For me, it’s Hischier right now – and he certainly had to earn the distinction. -Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News
Hischier has been stupendous all season long and has continued his excellent run during the QJHML playoffs. Meanwhile, Patrick has been out much of the season and missed the Wheaties playoff series in which they were swept.
Here’s the good news, the Golden Knights didn’t need the 2016-17 season to know who Nolan Patrick is. While many teams were set to take advantage of another pre-draft eligible season for Patrick (he missed the cutoff by four days last year), they weren’t afforded a wealth of ice time due to Patrick’s nagging injuries. The Golden Knights on the other hand have Kelly McCrimmon on their staff. The current owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings and the former coach and GM of Patrick through his first three years in Manitoba.
Of course the lottery balls still have to have their say (still no official date on the lottery yet), but it’s likely that if McCrimmon believes Patrick is the next Anze Kopitar, he and McPhee will do what it takes to make him a Golden Knight. Therefore, the injuries, the rise of Hischier, and the lack of minutes from Patrick could in fact be a blessing in disguise for Vegas.
Assuming McCrimmon’s not just blowing smoke when he talks about Patrick, every bit of negative news that comes out about the 19-year-old should be music to the Golden Knights’ ears. Let them pump up Nico, talk themselves into Gabe Vilardi, Timothy Liljegren or Juuso Valimaki, and come up with reasons not to trust what McCrimmon’s known all along.
The Hockey News is just the first of what will likely be a rash of outlets to start questioning Patrick’s merit after a “disappointing” (he still had 46 points in 33 games) season. If the lottery treats Vegas well, none of it will matter, but if it doesn’t, every bit of negative pub will help pave the way for McPhee to pull some strings and find himself in position to nab Patrick.
McCrimmon saw enough of Patrick to watch him wear another sweater. Either way, keep rooting for Patrick’s draft stock to fall, because Vegas has all the information it needs, others… not so much.