Patrick shines in return to lineup

Aaron Vickers2017 Draft Center, WHL

Nolan Patrick is back.

And he didn’t take long to leave an impression.

Patrick, first in Future Considerations’ Winter ranking for the 2017 NHL Draft, had two goals and two assists for the Brandon Wheat Kings in his return after missing 35 games because of an unspecified upper-body injury.

“It’s just nice to be back out there,” said Patrick, who rehabbed the injury with former Atlanta Thrashers forward JP Vigier back in Winnipeg. “It’s never fun watching, so being back and getting a win on the first night back is obviously pretty nice.

“My energy felt better than I was expecting and my legs felt good, so that’s obviously a bonus.”

Patrick scored twice on the power play, and added two assists on Brandon’s final two goals in his first game in more than three months.

He last played on Oct. 11 prior to Friday’s 8-5 win against the Kootenay Ice.

“It’s never fun being out, and especially missing 35 games,” he said. “The main thing I focused on was just not getting negative about things. I can’t really control how fast I was going to heal, so I just focused on the rehab and did as much as I could do to get better.”

Patrick was fifth in Western Hockey League scoring with 102 points in 72 regular season games, and led the league in scoring with 30 points in 21 playoff games en route to helping the Wheat Kings to the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions. He was named playoff MVP.

He underwent sports hernia surgery in July for an injury sustained in the playoffs, and played six games before an injury Patrick described as “kind of a groin issue, low stomach.”

The injury forced him to miss representing Team WHL at the Canada-Russia Series, and an opportunity to try out for Canada’s entry at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. Canada finished with silver.

“Obviously it sucks that I missed the Subway Series and then the opportunity to try out for the World Juniors, but my main focus was just staying positive, working hard on things I could control,” Patrick said.

“In the end it sucks but you have to put that in the past and look on the end of the season.”

Patrick is taking the same approach to draft rankings.

The consensus top pick knows his sample size isn’t there.

But he’s not stressing.

What will be will be come season’s end.

“It’s exciting to see but I haven’t really had too much time to think about it,” Patrick said. “I’ve been injured the whole year. I haven’t been doing much to change anything there. My main focus is kind of my rehabbing so I didn’t look too much into that stuff.

“It doesn’t bother me.

“In the end if a team wants to draft me and they like me I’ll be honoured to go anywhere.

“It doesn’t bother me.”

With files from Justin Froese