Flyers Revisit: Draft Patrick Over Makar

Let’s bring it back to the 2017 NHL Draft. The Philadelphia Flyers were drafted second after they had won the lottery. It was widely accepted that Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick would go one and two by many, except that wasn’t the case inside the Flyers’ organization.

An appearance on the Cam & Strick PodcastBobby Clarke (ex-Sr. Vice President Hockey Operations), spoke about the decision that saw Patrick selected second by the Flyers instead of Patrick. Cale Makar. He is quoted as saying, “we get the second pick of the draft, and we end up drafting Nolan Patrick. Nolan Patrick was not wanted by any of our scouts. […] they wanted Makar.”

Nolan Patrick, ex-Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

Patrick has been plagued by injuries his entire career. It is not an attack on Ron Hextall as many others would have done the exact same thing. This was a missed chance that was right in front of the team. Of course, you can also chalk it up to hindsight, but every scout was all in on Makar, and he could’ve changed the organization.

We will go through how each player’s career has progressed since being drafted, the impact on each of their teams, and the moves that have resulted from the decision.

Career Pathways of Patrick vs Makar

The career paths of Patrick, Makar and others have seemingly diverged since the 2017 draft. Patrick began his career right away, and it seems that he may have done so in a hurry. These days, most top picks seem to be ready to jump to the NHL within a season of being selected. Makar took two years to develop and joined the Avalanche in 2018-19.

Nolan Patrick

Patrick, the second overall pick, made the Flyers his first season. He scored a respectable 13 goals, and had 30 points in 73 games. This was a solid start, as you can’t expect every top pick to come in and be a point per game right away. His ice time increased by 1:22 per week the next season, scoring 13 goals in 72 games and 31 points.

Patrick’s career really took a turn for the worst at a critical point. He was unable to maintain the momentum and the reps that he would have had he been healthy. Instead, he sustained a season-long injury which kept him out of the 2019-20 campaign. Patrick wasn’t the same upon returning, as he recorded just four goals and nine points in 52 games the following season, accompanied by a minus-30. This offseason, Patrick was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights. We will discuss more of this trade in a moment.

Cale Makar

Makar has been a great player since he joined the league. Makar joined the Avalanche in order to participate in their 2-18-19 playoff run. He scored six points in ten games. Makar was also voted to the Norris Trophy in ninth place. He won the Calder Trophy the next season as the best rookie.

Makar’s name continues to be all over trophy ballots, as his second season in the NHL, 2020-21, he finished at a point per game, making the all-star team, second in Norris Trophy voting, 12th in Hart Trophy voting, and 14th in Lady Byng Trophy voting.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

Makar has scored 128 points in 130 games, two points below his career average. After experiencing NHL action in the postseason, Makar recorded 25 points in 25 playoff games. With 16 goals on the season in 29 games this year already, the sky’s the limit and he continues to get better.

A career comparison of the two shows that Patrick has played the fourth-most games (206) among 2017 NHL draft picks, while he’s 11th in points (73). Patrick has the second-worst plus/minus of any NHL draft pick (minus-35), while Makar has a plus/minus of +45. Makar, a defenseman, has played the most games, but has the least points.

Impact Patrick & Makar Have Had on Their Teams

The direction of both the Flyers’ and Avalanche’s careers are in opposite directions, just like their careers.

Patrick’s playing career has been dominated by injuries. This not only impacts him, but his team as well. Six games were his lowest number of missed games in five seasons in the league. This was despite a 56-game season. A team can generally handle a player missing 10 or less games a season, but it isn’t ideal.

Patrick has missed 122 games in total since joining the league. It’s no wonder why his career has gotten off to a shaky start, as he is never able to find traction and establish himself. Patrick has missed thirty of the 39 games this season, even after the Flyers let him go.

Related: Flyers’ Interest in Lawson Crouse Shows Team Has Eyes on the Future

Patrick can sustain serious injuries every season, which can have a devastating effect on his team. Because rosters are created and signed around the expectation that everyone is healthy, moves and signings are made. With constant injuries, players may have to be called up too early or put in positions where it’s much more difficult to succeed.

Despite some time missed by Makar each season, it hasn’t slowed him down. He’s as consistent and as elite as they come in terms of production. He is a skilled goal scorer, can pass the puck and can get shots through the blue line. Makar is a very rare defenceman who has more takeaways that giveaways. He’s not the biggest or heaviest defenceman, but he can use his stick very well and his footspeed isn’t matched by many.

These are the moves that resulted from each player being drafted

Each of the teams could have gone in different directions if they didn’t draft who they did in 2017. Flyers would have a solid number one right-shot defenseman who can score points from the back-end. This includes being the power-play quarterback.

After moving Shayne Gostisbehere, who was out of favor in Philadelphia, and everyone else knew it, the Flyers went out and acquired Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Rasmus Ristolainen. Makar, who is now on the team and in the system, would have allowed the Flyers to trade Gostisbehere. His stock was higherThey received a great return. They traded him instead after a disconnect. This created a gap that needed to be filled, and they also lost a second- and seventh-round pick.

Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers
Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia FlyersAmy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

It didn’t matter if it was Ellis or Ristolainen. It cost the FlyersFirst-round pick, Philippe Myers, Robert Hagg, and a third. One has played four games and hasn’t done what he was brought in to do, play on the top pairing with Ivan Provorov and help out on the power play, while the other is on an expiring deal with an uncertain future with the Flyers nowhere closer to competing for a Stanley Cup.

They have been able to build the back-end of the team and Makar’s status as the top Colorado defenseman has allowed them the opportunity to make him a household name. Makar is a talent that will last a lifetime and has been locked up for five more years. Makar and some other key players will remain in the team’s fold for as long as they are there.

It can be difficult to get production from a defense group. Makar alone is scoring more goals this season than any other NHL club as a whole. The Avalanche’s power play is covered, the top right defence is covered, and offensive and defensive production is covered, all things the Flyers have been searching to fill.

While no one can change their decisions, Patrick’s selection over Makar has led to many changes and events. The Flyers now contemplate rebuilding or another retooling of their team, while the Avalanche are chasing a Cup.