Development Path for Noah Cates Could Replicate Couturier for Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers left wing Noah Cates (49) and New Jersey Devils center Dawson Mercer (91) face-off at Wells Fargo Center.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the deadline, now former Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher made a statement to the media about potential assets he could get in return. 

“We want younger assets,” Fletcher said three days before the deadline. “Some players, realistically, it will be some kind of pick. But prospects work well too. Some combination of both would be great.”

Clearly, that didn’t really happen for the Flyers, however that doesn’t mean they don’t have younger assets on the team or soon to be here that can help with that vision. One of those players is Cutter Gauthier, drafted last June with the fifth overall pick. We profiled Gauthier’s freshman season with Boston College and his development back in the fall.

This time, the focus is on another player already at the NHL and starting to make a name for himself from the college ranks to the pros, Noah Cates.

Cates is having a stellar rookie season as a two-way forward for the Flyers, more known for his defensive skill set. That was a trademark of his game, even during his college days playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.

While playing for UMD, Cates scored a career total of 39 goals and 60 assists for 99 points in 139 games. His best all-around season was 2018-19, where he recorded 23 points as a freshman while having a plus-12 rating.

Those are the kind of stats that are reminiscent of Sean Couturier. Early in his career, Couturier was not a prolific goal scorer or offensive producer, recording just 27 points in his rookie season. But he was a plus-18 in 77 games, showcasing a defensive style that became the focal point of his game.

Cates has already surpassed Couturier’s rookie season production, with 29 points in 69 games played, while posting a plus-5 rating in what’s been a dismal season overall for the Flyers.

Similar to the 2019-20 Selke trophy winner, Cates makes the right plays defensively, is difficult to knock off the puck, shows strong skating ability, and has incredible on-ice awareness. The 2017 fifth-round pick has also shown improvement in the face-off circle of late, going 24-of-45 in the three games prior to this past weekend.

Overall, he’s won 39.7% of his draws this season while averaging 17:39 in ice time. In Couturier’s rookie season, he had a 47 percent success rate in face-offs, eventually boosting that total to as high as 59.6 percent in the 2019-20 season with a career average of 52 percent. Despite being injured and trying to come back this year, Couturier has been seen at practice training Cates on face-offs. Who better to learn from than the 11-year veteran?

Cates, now 24, has made some excellent strides to becoming a regular NHL player, but more importantly fitting into Fletcher’s scheme of younger assets and continually earning the praise and trust of head coach John Tortorella. That bodes well for Cates and his future, especially as interim GM Danny Briere and the future of the front office chart the course ahead for the long haul.

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