VOORHEES, N.J. – Going strictly by the stat sheet, you wouldn’t know that rookie Nolan Patrick has been playing some good hockey the past month or so.
After all, he’s only registered one goal and two assists in his last 22 games.
But a closer look at the numbers show that the Flyers center has been either even or a plus player in 18 of those contests.
That’s responsible enough for coach Dave Hakstol to promote Patrick to a line with veterans Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds on Monday during practice at the Skate Zone.
This unit figures to be together when the Flyers attempt their third win of the season against Washington when they visit the Capitals on Wednesday night.
Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in last June’s draft, has been brought along slowly, partly because of injury and partly because the Flyers don’t want to put too much pressure on the kid.
He’s been able to handle the pressure, hence the move to a top-notch line.
It’s all about trust between coach and player.
“I think I’ve been playing a little better lately, through my pace of play,’’ Patrick said. “So maybe that had something to do with it.’’
Voracek, a lefthanded shooter, will make a move from right wing to left to accommodate the newly formed line. Simmonds is a righty shooter, so there was no point in moving him off the right side.
It’s nothing really new for Voracek, who saw playing time on the left side a couple seasons back.
“Less options on the left side,’’ Voracek explained. “But I think I can enter the zone better on my left side because when I can have my head up, I have more speed coming into the zone.
“I think I’m a smart enough player to figure out how to make the play entering the zone. We haven’t really played together so you can’t judge it yet.’’
Both Voracek and Simmonds agreed the “new’’ look will make it tougher for opponents to gameplan against.
“We just have to focus as a line that we play good defensively,’’ Voracek said. “We have to make sure we end up in the plus numbers. We’ll probably win the game if that happens.’’
Simmonds has been playing with Patrick so the two already have some chemistry together.
“I think it (the new line) is a pretty good mix, so let’s see how we do,’’ Simmonds said. “It keeps it fresh, too. I think everybody’s been playing well, so I don’t think this is a slight on anybody’s play.’’
Hakstol usually only makes changes to shake things up a bit. But this feels more like just experimenting.
It starts with Patrick.
“His play over the last stretch, probably the last dozen games,’’ Hakstol said. “Patty’s played pretty strong, two-way hockey. He’s making things happen with the puck, he’s much more comfortable having the puck.
“I think that’s one of the biggest developments that we’ve seen in his game. Early on, I thought there were times when he was just trying to make a safe play, move the puck to somebody else. This last stretch, he’s wanted the puck and made positive things happen when he’s at it.’’
Hakstol said the turning point for Patrick might have been his recovery from a concussion (after the ninth game of the season).
“It was a real challenge coming off a three-plus-week injury where he didn’t have an opportunity to play games,’’ Hakstol said. “That created a challenge for him and he really handled it well. Right now he’s back to a point where he’s continually elevating his game.’’