It’s a big prospect talk over here at Broad Street Hockey, where we’re breaking down the top-10 prospects in the Flyers’ system.
Last week, we polled the staff here for their personal top-10 rankings and used that to compile our composite list, and we’ll be working through that list over the next couple of weeks.
No. 9: Noah Cates
2021-22 League/Team: Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC)/Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
2021-22 Statistics: 16 G, 17 A, 33 P in 53 GP combined across NCHC/NHL
Acquired In: 2017 NHL Entry Draft (Fifth-round, 137th overall)
How did Cates’ 2021-22 hockey season go? Is his stock trending up or down from where it was entering the year?
Cates certainly parlayed a strong finish to 2021-22 with the Flyers (5 G, 4 A in 16 games) into his No. 9 spot in this exercise. Not that Cates’ senior season at UMD wasn’t anything to sneeze about, but it was really the strong two-way play during his NHL cup of coffee that has him here with stock trending up.
Entering the season Cates was one in a slew of prospects who fit the bill as potential bottom-sixers down the line, but also one as going back to college hockey to play a senior season with little upside to really gain. the revolving door of the Flyers’ season helped created a spot for Cates to show what he could bring late in the season and he delivered a scoring touch that was a surprise given the rest of the fine board work and puck control he’s showed for a few camps now.
Noah Cates deflects Keith Yandle's point shot for a 2-0 Flyers lead over the Penguins! pic.twitter.com/5iAVSXFoKG— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) April 24, 2022
In a season filled with bottom-six failures and an offseason filled with potentially more, Cates is positioned to be a cheap and valuable roster addition that the cap strapped Flyers will certainly need. And if the offense wasn’t a mirage, the Flyers could have themselves another Oskar Lindblom type that can play up and down and provide badly needed scoring productive from the bottom six.
What are we expecting from Cates this season? What should we be looking for from him?
Given this is his age-23 season (he turns 24 in February), the time is really now or never for Cates to establish himself on the NHL roster. Cates’ game shapes up perfectly to be in the mix for one of those bottom six jobs and he showed last year that the ability is there to execute in the role — and more.
There’s a chance that Cates is already better than Nic Deslauriers and Zack MacEwen and the hope is that the coaching staff doesn’t fall in love with toughness to the point that the former college standout is bumped for someone like Antoine Roussel because veterans.
If given the proper chance we can expect Cates to stick in the bottom six and hopefully turn into some version of Lindblom with a solid as rock 200-foot game and some scoring punch here and there mixed in — which would be a great outcome for the Flyers and one not out of the realm of possibility given the 16-game sample size we saw last year.
Noah Cates scores his 1st NHL goal! Loving the kids game so far pic.twitter.com/TWoZpBE5C8— Tie My Skates (@tiemyskatespod) April 5, 2022
How does Cates fit into the Flyers’ long-term plans? Where does he stand in the Flyers’ organizational depth?
Cates has a pretty path to regular playing time going into 2022-23, and recent news of Sean Couturier’s back injury only opens up yet another roster spot for those on the bubble. Cates has shown some NHL ability and could prove to be a valuable depth piece for the organization in the short and middle term.
Given his rather advanced age in terms of his prospect status, Cates qualifies here as one of the those high floor type of guys rather than the boom or bust types that the Flyers have stocked in recent years.
Though he doesn’t have the upside of someone like a Cutter Gauthier or a Bobby Brink, he’s got plenty of organizational value right now.
What do we think Cates’ ultimate NHL upside is, and how likely is it that he gets to something approaching that?
As we touched on above, Cates is more of a finished product at this point but showed some finishing touch last season that could move the needle even more. We see Cates as a solid third or fourth line player in that Lindblom mold with potential to add scoring production. The good news is that he’s really there already at age-23 and could be a controllable asset for years to come, even if the Flyers aren’t really going anywhere in that time.