Cates embraces challenge of top-line center spot

Noah Cates

In a season somewhat slowed by injuries and the process of learning a new coach’s system, the Flyers have in fact enjoyed a few pleasant surprises.

One of them is rookie center Noah Cates, who started the season at win but was brought over to the pivot to make better use of his strong two-way play.

Heading into Monday night’s play, Cates had played in all 25 games, with three goals/nine points and a plus-2.

Coach John Tortorella has shown so much faith in Cates he’s even used him with accomplished veterans Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes on the top scoring line.

Actually, Tortorella has found room for Cates at center in part because he’s moved Hayes, normally a center, over to wing.

Cates, a 23-year-old fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, likes the challenge of competing on a top line and competing against some of the NHL’s best players.

“It’s been good,’’ Cates said after Monday morning’s pre-game skate at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “I’m playing with more skilled players. I have to play hard and get the puck in their hands. On the power play as well, I have to win puck battles.’’

Come to think of it, that trio clicked quite well on a power play in Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to New Jersey.

Hayes spotted Cates open at the bottom of the right circle. Cates took the pass and one-timed it straight to Konecny for a blink-and-you-missed-it shot into the Devils’ net.

Cates’ proficiency on defense allows Konecny and Hayes to concentrate a little more on offense.

“I feel like I’ve been pretty strong defensively,’’ Cates said. “It’s a big responsibility for the coaches to put me up on the top line with those guys. I have to make the most of the opportunity and the team does, too.’’

Heading into the Colorado game, the Flyers had performed well in three of the past four games but only had one win to show for it.

Cates indicated there’s just a very fine line between winning and losing, typified by the Devils game in which the Flyers were in it right until the final horn.

“We have to be hungry,’’ he offered. “When you see how close we are, we’re in it against some of the top teams in the league. We’re right there. We just have to focus for the full 60 (minutes). We can’t take any shifts off, mentally or physically. It’s good we’re right there but we need a little extra effort to win these games.’’

>Short shots

Carter Hart was scheduled to start in goal against the Avalanche. . .Tortorella said Tanner Laczynski would be returning to the lineup for this game and Max Willman was scratched. . .The Flyers complete their five-game homestand on Wednesday night against Washington, then embark on a four-game road trip to Vegas, Arizona, Colorado and New Jersey.

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.