The Flyers had a lot of players miss significant time last season because of injuries.
One of the more under-the-radar absences was Patrick Brown. The 30-year-old center was limited to 44 games because of a back issue, an MCL sprain, a dislocated thumb and a bout with COVID-19.
Brown was a waiver claim just ahead of the season and is a fourth-line center. Pair those two things with being out for almost half of the season, and suffice it to say Brown isn't a well-known guy in Philadelphia.
But with time, he could be very well-liked by new head coach John Tortorella and much more known this season if he stays healthy.
"I’ve never had this many, we’ll call them bad bounces — just a whole bunch of fluky injuries," Brown said at his end-of-the-season press conference in late April. "I’m hoping I got them all out of the way.
"Obviously I have to do a better job staying healthy so that I can contribute and play when they need me."
When on the ice, Brown can be an effective guy by doing those little but important responsibilities that build trust between a coach and player. He prides himself on taking tough faceoffs, blocking shots and killing penalties. Last season, he had a 58.5 faceoff win percentage, blocked 36 shots and was able to contribute four goals and five assists while playing 12:26 minutes per game.
A notable moment in his season came on Feb. 26 when he got in the way of an Alex Ovechkin blast to seal a 2-1 win over the Capitals.
"It's plays like that that obviously we get pretty jacked up about it, but maybe those plays go unnoticed to the regular eye," Cam Atkinson said after the victory. "If you just watch how he competes and how he goes about his business on and off the ice, he's one of the best bros out there."
If the Flyers are going to be more competitive this season after losing 57 games last year (25-46-11), they're going to do it defensively.
"I think we need to give Carter [Hart] a little bit more support as far as how we play around him," Tortorella said in June, "allow him to really get himself into the National Hockey League."
Brown's strengths make him a candidate to help.
"I know there’s going to be a ton of competition in camp next year. I think they’re going to do everything they can to make sure that we have a much better season," Brown said. "I’m excited for the challenge and the competition. I’m going to do everything I can to be the best Philadelphia Flyer I can be. We’ve got to win more hockey games — for ourselves, for the fans, for the city. We’ve got to be better. I’m excited for that opportunity."
A fourth-line center won't be recognized much when a team is losing. But when it's winning, those players are critical and noticeable.
The hard-working Brown proved he could win at the AHL level. He was the captain of the 2019 Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes' AHL affiliate at the time. Now he's trying to show he can be a piece at the NHL level. He'll be looking to earn a contract with the Flyers as the 2022-23 season marks the final year of a two-year, $1.5 million deal he originally signed with the Golden Knights.
More wins would go a long way.
"I feel really blessed to have another year on my contract because I feel like we have a lot of work to do," Brown said. "We have a great core, but we have a lot of work to do to be a better team. I’ve got an opportunity to be a part of that and I want to be a part of it."
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