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This article was published 3/9/2016 (660 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nolan Patrick sure wouldn’t have scripted his biggest hockey season this way.
The Brandon Wheat Kings forward, widely considered a top candidate to be selected first at the National Hockey League draft next May, is recovering from sports hernia surgery in mid-July.
He’s skated four times under the careful supervision of assistant coach Aaron Rome, but otherwise isn’t ready to participate in training camp.
"It’s going pretty good," Patrick said. "Obviously you never want to go down with an injury but for me it kind of happened at the best time, in the off-season. Hopefully I won’t miss any games."
Patrick, 17, said the injury occurred during Game 4 of the playoff series against the Red Deer Rebels, a 4-2 win on April 27 that extended his team’s lead in the series to 3-1.
Patrick had two assists in the game, and two nights later had three goals and two assists in a 5-2 series-ending victory.
"I played through it the whole playoffs and then I took two weeks off when I got home and tried to let it heal itself," Patrick said. "When I started training again, it was bugging me when I was training. Then I went down to Dallas to see someone about it and then I came home and they found out what it was. I had surgery a few days later."
He was invited to Team Canada’s camp for the world junior championship squad but wasn’t able to go because it came just a week after his surgery. He still wasn’t walking well and his doctor advised him against flying.
His focus now lies with the year ahead.
A lot of other people will be watching as well because Patrick’s birthday fell a few days after the NHL’s deadline. As a result, he will have three full seasons in the Western Hockey League before he is chosen by the NHL.
If the upcoming season goes anything like the last two, scouts will be happy.
He was named WHL rookie of the year in 2014-15 after scoring 30 goals and adding 26 assists in 55 games. He followed that up by finishing second in Brandon scoring last season with 102 points, on 41 goals and 61 helpers.
"It should be fun," Patrick said of the upcoming season. "Honestly I’m not thinking about the draft or anything like that already. I’m just trying to get myself healthy and back into shape and win some games. I think we’re going to have another strong team this season so I think we have some big expectations again. I’m excited to get the season going."
Patrick and his teammates will have to be very good for the team to reach the heights it did last season.
Exactly three weeks to the day after his playoff injury, the Wheat Kings captured the WHL title in Kent, Wash., with an 8-4 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. It’s a special memory for the forward.
"That was unbelievable, one of the best nights of my life for sure."
» Twitter: @Perry Bergson