Beyond Tomorrow: Family ties guide Wheat Kings’ Patrick towards 2017 NHL Draft

By David Hahn
Nolan Patrick - Brandon Wheat Kings

Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings forward and 2017 prospect Nolan Patrick has been named the WHL Rookie of the Year for the 2014-15 season (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

 

 

While a lot can happen between now and the summer of 2017, Nolan Patrick is an early favorite to have his name called in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft. At just 16 years old, Patrick has already introduced himself to the Brandon Wheat Kings faithful in fine fashion, and has been a major part of a team looking to add to their trophy case.

While it is just a small part of what makes Patrick an intriguing prospect, his bloodlines run deep into the NHL. His father, Steve, blazed a familiar path through the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 250-game NHL career. His uncle, James Patrick, had an NHL career that spanned over 21 years and currently has him as an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars.

Looking back to 2013, Patrick was selected fourth overall by the Wheat Kings, following in the footsteps of his father. They selected him from the AAA Bantam Winnipeg Hawks, where he was named as the player of the year following a 75-point season, a point total accrued over just 19 games. He was selected one spot ahead of fellow Manitoban and expected top prospect, Brett Howden, who joined the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Oozing with pro potential, Patrick grew two inches and added 10 pounds between his draft year and his debut with the club nearing the end of the 2013-14 season. He managed to score his first WHL goal, but was otherwise held scoreless in limited minutes for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.

This year has been a bit of a renaissance for Patrick, who models his game after Jamie Benn, difficult news to swallow for defensemen who oppose him. He is a solid, all-around player who plays a confident two-way game, despite the obvious age discrepancy among his peers. Brandon is one of the youngest squads in the WHL, perhaps a season or two ahead of where pundits thought they would be. Patrick has shined alongside of WHL veterans Jayce Hawryluk and John Quenneville, the former drafted by the Florida Panthers and the latter by the New Jersey Devils.

Statistically speaking, Patrick’s point totals and obvious contributions in that regard are noteworthy. However, it’s the scout’s favorite “eye test” where Patrick really separates himself from fellow 2017 draft-eligible skaters. The Winnipeg, MB native has been deployed on both sides of the special teams equation, and Head Coach Kelly McCrimmon hasn’t hesitated to put Patrick on the ice with less than a minute remaining, a testament to his budding hockey sense and feel for the game. Those intangibles led to an impressive 30-goal, 26-assist season, finishing third among all WHL rookies in scoring. The goal scoring total stands out, especially when you consider that he outscored the second-place finisher (Kailer Yamamoto) by seven goals.

Patrick’s performance in the 2014-15 season did not go unnoticed at the league level as he was named the winner of the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Rookie of the Year.

Playing among players his age, Patrick participated in the World U17 Hockey Challenge and contributed five assists in five games, serving as the team captain. This was his third such assignment over his career, after captaining his bantam team in 2013 and Manitoba’s Western Canada Challenge Cup bronze medal squad last year.

Patrick has drawn comparisons already to Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, a nice precursor to his future. Looking at the NHL ties of former Wheat Kings points straight to the 2007-08 season, where a trio of rookies led the charge for Brandon. Those players were Matt Calvert, Scott Glennie, and Brayden Schenn, the latter perhaps another name who Patrick could meet and one-day surpass on his meteoric draft projection.

Compared against the 16-year-old seasons of Mathew Barzal, Leon Draisaitl, and Sam Reinhart, Patrick produced at a better point-per-game clip than all three, perhaps a bit of foreshadowing of his NHL future. If any speed bumps present themselves, having the Patrick family support system with the experience and knowledge to guide him through will be a major advantage moving ahead. Standing 6’3” and weighing in at 190 pounds, there may still be room to grow, a tantalizing thought in the minds of NHL scouts.

None of the Wheat Kings will admit that they are thinking about the WHL Championship and a potential berth in the 2015 Memorial Cup Tournament, but it has been five years since Brandon has made an appearance there. It’s been nearly 20 years since the Ed Chynoweth Cup has graced the presence of the Wheat Kings trophy case, but with Nolan Patrick on board, it’s not far-fetched to believe that the wait may soon be over for their faithful fans.

Nolan Patrick’s time at the NHL Draft is still off in the future, but, once it arrives, the time it takes to hear his name called at the 2017 NHL Draft could be short. His father was selected 20th overall, his Uncle went ninth, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility than Nolan will beat them both.

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey