Welcome to another WHL Best of the 2010s feature where we profile the best WHL players from the 2009-10 season all the way to the 2019-20 season. Players are judged based on what they did in each division. This means if a player spent time in multiple divisions, their placement will be judged based on what they did separately while in each division. Don’t forget to vote on our Twitter page, @WHLonA51 to help determine which player will be crowned the best WHL player of the 2010s. We hope you enjoy.

Nolan Patrick has been widely regarded as one of the most skillful skaters to have played in the Western Hockey League, displaying immense talent despite the injuries suffered throughout his Juniors career. Captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings, Patrick drew the eyes of many with his performance, including NHL scouts and teams.

His career in the WHL was kickstarted in 2013 when he was selected fourth overall in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft by the Wheat Kings. He hit the ice in Brandon for the first time on March 11, 2014, after being unable to play during a call-up in December due to a shoulder injury. The first game of his rookie season was coincidentally on his birthday, September 19, and his first goal came just over two weeks later, on October 4, 2014. 

‘Memorable’ is one of the best words to describe Patrick’s rookie season. With 56 points (30G-26A) in 55 games, he was among the top scorers of his class, despite missing a total of 17 games due to injury. He was awarded the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL Rookie of the Year, the sixth Wheat Kings player to earn the title since Brayden Schenn in 2008. 

Arguably his most impressive season in the WHL, his 2015-16 year helped propel his name to the top of the list for NHL scouts. At the conclusion of the season, he was fifth in the league with 41 goals scored and recorded an astonishing total of 102 points in 72 games played. This made him the first 17-year-old Wheat King to score over 100 points since Ray Allison and Brian Propp in 1976-77. Patrick helped lead the Wheat Kings to the 2016 Ed Chynoweth Cup and was named the WHL Playoff MVP.

The next season, 2016-17, he was named captain of the Wheat Kings and was widely regarded as the top prospect of the 2017 NHL draft. Many projected rankings listed him at first overall, with scouting reports highlighting his skating and strong wrist shot. Ben Kerr of LWOS stated, “[Patrick] has high-end hockey IQ and always seems to make the right play both with and without the puck. […] He can put the puck through tight areas and make tape-to-tape passes for teammates.” 

Unfortunately, after playing six games to start the 2016-17 season, it was announced Patrick was day-to-day due to an upper-body injury. At that time, he had been tied for the lead in scoring, with four goals and five assists; he continued to be day-to-day through the majority of the season. The injury was soon revealed to be a complication from his sports hernia injury back in the 2015-16 season, which he had played through in the Eastern Conference Final and the Memorial Cup games. 

Although he had missed most of the regular season and four playoff games, Patrick was still ranked as the number one North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. On June 23, 2017, he was selected second overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2017 NHL draft, and signed with the team only a few weeks later on July 17. 

With a total of 205 points (92G-113A) in 163 games played, Nolan Patrick was and is a player of immense skill and talent. The Brandon Wheat Kings were lucky to have him, and when he’s not on IR, the NHL is too.

By Gabriel Neumann

WHL enthusiast and goalie aficionado, Gabriel covers the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince George Cougars, and Kamloops Blazers for Area 51 Sports Network. Hockey and writing are what keep him going. Twitter: @gneumnn

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