This Young Flyers Forward Continues to Impress
Noah Cates, playing under the Philadelphia Flyers’ new system and structure, is having an impressive rookie season.
And he’s done it at a new position, center.
Last season, when Cates got called up to the Flyers, he played 16 games and excelled on a line with two other young forwards, Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett. That line had a very solid outing in a 4-1 win over the Penguins on April 24.
On that line, Cates was at left wing, but being switched to center this season has sparked new traits in his game.
Sound on D
Defensively, he’s in the right position for a great portion of his play, and is always ready to attack with his strong hockey IQ. One thing that has been mentioned by head coach John Tortorella has been Cates’ play along the walls. Tortorella talked about it after the Philadelphia Flyers’ recent 3-2 overtime loss in Minnesota.
“Catesy is one of our top players as far as positioning, and also the battle on the puck and winning puck battles, so this game was right up his alley.” Tortorella said.
So true. Cates has been in a good position for most of his shifts this season, and it’s turned into goals and defensive stops. Here’s a few examples:
Goal vs. Buffalo on 1/9/23
— Christopher Maher (@_ChrisMaher) February 3, 2023
Cates started, and finished this goal. Flyers were in mid-change and he stayed on the forecheck, creating havoc in the defensive zone. It was a beautifully set up play that gave the Flyers some more cushion in an eventual 4-0 win in Buffalo.
And the the play that gave Travis Konecny the green light to attack the middle? Cates’ hit along the wall.
Defensive play vs. Toronto on 1/8/23
Cates is literally perfect on Defense like 98% of the time. He's so valuable. He had a really nice takeaway on Tavares here in the 1st: pic.twitter.com/EreCuupmtU
— Christopher Maher (@_ChrisMaher) January 9, 2023
Again, another play on the wall where Cates strips John Tavares and outmuscles him to get a zone exit for the Flyers after they were hemmed in for a while.
Defensively, he’s almost always in the right position, and will get the puck out when he has the chance. Cates, playing primarily on a line with Joel Farabee and Konecny, was a key factor to the Flyers’ success in January (8-4-2 record).
What to work on?
Since Cates is 23 — the Minnesota native turns 24 on Sunday — and is in his first full NHL season, he’s obviously going to grow more into his game. He only has 67 NHL games under his belt and came straight out of college when he signed his entry-level contract last March.
Cates has only been playing center for a few months, and his work in the faceoff circle (which is mainly a team issue) is only at 39 percent, so you’d like to see that go up. You would also hope for more offensive production on a more consistent basis. He has 22 points in 51 games this season (8 goals, 14 assists), but it’s not a huge worry at the moment. (Remember, Sean Couturier had just 27 points (13-14) in his rookie season.)
Just prior to the All-Star break, Cates had goals in back-to-back games against Minnesota and Winnipeg.
All in all, Cates has been a strong force for the Flyers and has played his role very well in the absence of the injured Couturier.