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Noah Cates Can Be A Keeper For The Flyers

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Noah Cates
Noah Cates

As the Flyers’ season ended, the shortcomings were easy to find. They were visible most nights on the ice.

Moving into the offseason, the Flyers’ challenge is to find players who are NHL-worthy, winning players who will be foundational parts of a rebuild.

Forward Noah Cates can be one of those players.

He showed that all season.

Flyers television analyst Keith Jones made a startling point about Cates during the team’s 4-2 loss at St. Louis late in the season.

After a solid backcheck, Cates had the puck along the boards, to the right of goalie Sam Ersson. Cates had time. He looked up and inexplicably passed toward the front of the net, the puck sliding between two teammates.

Cates’ pass turned out to be a splendid set-up for Blues winger Jordan Kyrou. He gladly accepted the misguided puck and snapped a shot past Ersson for a 1-0 St. Louis lead. It was Kyrou’s 37th goal. He was the wrong guy to set up so perfectly.

Cates slowly skated toward the bench, head down, holding his helmet.

Players make mistakes. Even good players. It’s part of the growing process.

Interesting comment

Jones’ comment got my attention. He said Cates’ mistake was just about the first one he had committed all season. That might have been a touch of hyperbole, but the truth is that Cates was one of the Flyers’ best players last season.

“I think just building confidence and the experience this year was kinda my goal coming into it,” Cates said at the Flyers’ end-of-season news conferences.

“I didn’t know where I was going to be at, at the beginning. But to have a full opportunity in the NHL and with the opportunities — power play, penalty kill, big minutes, playing center — I wanted to grow and learn from everything whether it was good or bad.

“There was definitely a lot of things to learn, so the confidence I can play in this league, wherever I’m slotted or whoever I’m playing against, I’m confident and I know what I can do.”

Build with Cates

Jones is now president of hockey operations. He is part of a group that will oversee the Flyers’ rebuild with general manager Daniel Briere and coach John Tortorella.

Cates is a two-way player, conscientious on defense, with skill that someday could result in higher point totals. He was a much-needed bright spot for the Flyers this season. The 24-year-old from Stillwater, Minn., played all 82 games. He had 13 goals and 25 assists, with a plus-minus rating of plus-3. He made a position switch from wing to center.

Amazingly, he had only 12 penalty minutes on the season.

Cates played 16 games in 2021-22. He had five goals, four assists and was a plus-4.

“He’s just an impressive guy for and I’ve stuck him in the middle of the ice that he’s never played before and I think he’s just handled himself so well,”  Tortorella said during the season.

The Flyers selected Cates in the fifth round in 2017. He was 137th player selected, after a four-year career at college hockey powerhouse Minnesota-Duluth that included an NCAA championship in 2019. He also was a member of the United States’ 2019 world juniors team that won a silver medal.

“Going into this summer it’s super exciting,” Cates said. “We kinda saw spurts of where we can be. I think a lot of the younger guys stepped up so it was definitely cool to see but it’s about taking that next step, keep going forward for me personally and the team.

“Going into summer I’ll be looking forward to that, pushing that and really want to come in even more ready than I did this past summer, and have an even better start and a better season.”

Flyers, In Case You Missed It:

Keith Jones had front row seat to NHL history.

Eastern Conference finals has distinct Flyers flavor.

Friday was the anniversary of the Flyers’ first Stanley Cup championship.

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