NASHVILLE — Nolan Patrick could be the first pick in a draft many have called the weakest in years.
It’s a bit of a weird situation to be in.
But it’s the one Patrick, the top-ranked prospect for this year’s draft, found himself in on Monday as he and other top prospects met with reporters ahead of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
And so it was asked: What’s it like to hear comments about this year’s class not being very good?
“I think the media’s pumping it down a lot more than it is,” Patrick said. “A lot of scouts that I talked to this week [at the NHL scouting combine in Buffalo] said this is an above average draft.”
To be clear, it’s not just the media offering underwhelming projections. North American Central Scouting’s Mark Seidel told the Toronto Star 2017 is an “average draft” and “a step down from previous years.”
Then, there was the head of NHL Central Scouting, Dan Marr.
“The top guys are going to be able to have an impact on their NHL clubs,” Marr said, per USA Today. “But the list does get shallow pretty quick.”
Of course, virtually any draft is going to look weak compared to the last two. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in 2015, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine last year — those are generational talents, ones that made an immediate impact both on their teams and the league.
Patrick acknowledged as much.
“I think the NHL was spoiled with two unbelievable players in the last two years,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to get a Connor McDavid for a while. He was one of the top players in the NHL when he was 19 years old.”
It’s a salient point. McDavid and Matthews set the bar unbelievably high (and, to a lesser extent, so too did 2014 first overall selection Aaron Ekblad). But prior to those three, the No. 1 picks were Nathan MacKinnon, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, all of whom have had varied levels of success.
The point? That a lot of the time, the draft is still a crapshoot. Sure things like McDavid and Matthews are exception rather than the norms. And this year, they shouldn’t be used as measuring sticks.
“I don’t think any of us think we’re that, and none of us should be compared to a guy like [McDavid],” Patrick explained. “We don’t think we’re going to step into the league and put 40 goals up.
“We’re not trying to compare ourselves to those guys, we’re just trying to be our own players.”
Related: Patrick says misdiagnosed sports hernia derailed him last season