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Golden Knights center flashes skills with highlight-reel goal

Updated January 26, 2022 - 1:14 pm

Nolan Patrick reminded the hockey world Tuesday that he’s a special breed.

The Golden Knights center received a pass in the right circle of the offensive zone late in the second period of a 4-3 overtime loss at the Carolina Hurricanes. He sent the puck through his legs with his forehand, cut to the middle of the ice and fired a backhand shot that beat one of the NHL’s best goaltenders this season, Frederik Andersen.

Defenseman Brayden McNabb, grinning ear to ear, hugged Patrick twice in the ensuing celebration after watching the incredible play.

“There’s not many guys that have the creativity to think of doing that and then to actually execute,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I’m sure we’ll be watching that on the highlights of the night.”

It’s that kind of flash of skill that has always enticed those who have watched Patrick play. The 23-year-old was the second pick in the 2017 draft for a reason. Injuries continue to hold him back, but his recent run shows he still has the potential to be a contributor.

“I don’t want to put a ceiling or a floor on him,” DeBoer said. “He’s getting back in the lineup every night. He looks a little more comfortable. A little more confident. So we want to just keep building on that.”

Patrick’s size at 6 feet, 2 inches and combination of skills are attributes that scouts dream about at center. It’s just been difficult for him to stay on the ice long enough to put it all together.

He missed the 2019-20 season because of a migraine disorder. Then, four games into his Knights career, he suffered an upper-body injury that caused him to miss 29 games.

It slowed his adjustment to a new team and new style of play.

“Obviously, it was a tough start to the season,” Patrick said. “Starting to feel better each game and getting some confidence. Just trying to contribute as much as I can in any part of the game.”

Those contributions have been more consistent recently. Patrick has four points in his past six games, including his first two-point game Tuesday.

It’s impressive production considering he’s started all six games on the fourth line. He’s tied for the second-best five-on-five rating on the team in that span at plus-2 with McNabb and linemate Brett Howden.

Right wing Michael Amadio, who skates with Patrick and Howden, said the group is just trying to continue to stack good games after scoring in Monday’s win in Washington. The three have given the Knights offensive depth in recent games when top-end forwards Mark Stone and Reilly Smith have missed time in COVID-19 protocol.

“The depth of our lineup has given us a chance to get points,” DeBoer said. “When I look at the first half of the season, the story has been the contributions from guys like Will Carrier and Brett Howden and Nolan Patrick.”

It helps the depth when a fourth-line center is capable of doing what Patrick did in the second period Tuesday. And it’s why DeBoer doesn’t want to pigeonhole him into a specific role.

“Any goal kind of gives you a bit of confidence,” Patrick said. “I’ll just try to keep building, try to get better each game and try to contribute as much as I can.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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