Getting a healthy Nolan Patrick back in the Flyers’ lineup would be tantamount to signing a big free agent or making a major trade without giving up any assets.
The team’s No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft missed all of the 2019-20 season due to a chronic migraine headache condition.
But there were signs of progress toward the end of last season and now there are reports the center has been feeling much better and possibly could return to action.
Imagine a top-three center alignment of Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes and Patrick.
“As far as Nolan, all I hear are positive things,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said during a media conference call on Monday. “I can just imagine if you’re Nolan Patrick or (injured defenseman) Sam Morin and you haven’t been on the ice awhile.
“You’re nervous, you have some anxiety but you’re looking forward to hopefully coming back and being there ay the start of the camp.’’
Patrick has been skating at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. and will have to pass a full physical before he’s allowed to play in NHL games.
“He’s been feeling well,’’ the coach said. “Nolan’s been off skates a year and a half. But there’s a tremendous amount of potential there.
“I think we’re all keeping our fingers crossed he is healthy, that he does pass his physical. What I have been hearing for some time is that he is in a good place. I want this to be as smooth and easy as possible for him. He wants to get back at it but first he has to be healthy.’’
Meanwhile, Lindblom continues his recovery from a bout with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
He made it all the way back from months of chemotherapy to see some action toward the end of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series against the New York Islanders.
“Oskar is fine, he’s been skating in Philly for quite some time,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s good to go.’’
>Provorov’s new partner
There’s much speculation as to what player might replace the retired Matt Niskanen on the Flyers’ first defense pairing with Ivan Provorov.
It would be newly signed free agent Erik Gustafsson or it might be Phillipe Myers, who skated last season on a second pairing with Travis Sanheim.
Vigneault appears to be keeping an open mind.
“There are different possibilities,’’ he said. “Part of having those seven or eight skating days in camp will give opportunities to different guys to play with ‘Provy’ and see the fit we might get there.’’
Niskanen was a right-handed shot (Provorov is a left), so Myers (a righty) might have a slight advantage over the left-handed shooting Gustafsson.
“I think there are going to be a lot of moving parts,’’ Vigneault said. “We might have some very positive surprises.’’
As for Gustafsson, Vigneault has coached against him and knows his talent level.
“I think we’re getting a quality individual,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s a puck-moving ‘D’ that can jump up in the play. He has that ability to make that first, good pass out of our zone.’’
>During pandemic, staying healthy a top priority
Back in the summer, the Flyers’ played in the Toronto bubble due to the pandemic. This time around, there will be travel involved, albeit limited to the U.S. Northeast.
“To start, it’s going to be a lot like in the bubble,’’ Vigneault said. “In the sense that there will be no fans in the stands.
“We’ve played quite a few games in those circumstances. Hopefully, as the COVID situation progresses and the vaccine, our great fans can come back at some point.’’
The Flyers will be living at home instead of the bubble but Vigneault said, “Everyone is expected to be a professional, to do what the guidelines are meant to do, to keep everyone safe.’’
>Intradivision play will be demanding
Vigneault knows playing seven teams eight times each won’t be all that much fun, especially with Boston coming on board.
“We’re getting one of the No. 1 teams (the Bruins) in the league,’’ he said. “We’ll be playing teams a lot and it becomes a little like playoff hockey. You’re going to be playing back-to-backs, whether it’s in your building or on the road.
“It’s going to be different. But at the end of the day, you’re trying to win games and get in the playoffs.’’