Over the last few years, Flyers fans have fallen in love with many of the organization's prospects. Sometimes, we fall too in love with them, overvaluing and placing unlikely expectations on these young players. "Scouts Honor" is an attempt at bringing us all back to reality a bit, highlighting his strengths and weaknesses and never trying to make him out to be something he is not.
Tuesday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers announced they signed undrafted college free-agent Jackson Cates to a two-year entry-level contract.
Flyers fans should have some familiarity with the last name Cates. In 2017, Philadelphia drafted Jackson’s younger brother Noah in the fifth round. Though it is peculiar that the Flyers would sign Jackson before Noah, all signs point to both brothers receiving a contract this year.
Jackson Cates, a 23-year-old center, played the last three seasons with Minnesota-Duluth and was a part of the 2018 National Championship team. This season, he recorded 11 goals 16 assists in 28 games for the Bulldogs. He ranked second amongst his teammates in points and first in assists.
Scout’s Honor: Jackson Cates
Cates possesses a simplistic yet effective offensive game. His limited puck-handling ability prevents an overly creative approach to scoring and playmaking. However, Cates compensates for this with a powerful and accurate shot in space and a willingness to get into the dirty areas. Typically, he produces goals in two manners. Either mid-range shots with little congestion or net-front deflections and rebound opportunities. Although this approach will not place Cates on many highlight reels, it is effective and easily transferable to the level.
Outside of Cates’s simplistic scoring approach, the rest of his offensive game involves some deficiencies. He is a liability with the puck on his stick for prolonged period of times. His puck-handling during zone play is very turnover prone and his passing lacks the consistent-accuracy to make it an effective part of his skillset.
For Cates to remain effective, he needs to be quick with the puck on his stick. Whether it’s letting off a shot or finding a teammate for a quick pass, limiting prolonged puck-handling situations bode well for the young forward.
Jackson Cates is as solid as they come in his own zone. He is always aware and sets himself up in a good position to make a positive impact. Cates consistently blocks shooting and passing lanes and uses both his stick and body to disrupt possession. There is no quit to his defensive prowess, as he remains engaged with the play throughout the entire shift.
When defending, Cates can reach a level of skate speed that is not there when possessing the puck. This is likely due to his puck-handling issues. Regardless, it makes for a challenging player to execute a breakaway on.
Although UMD utilized Cates both on the power play and penalty-kill, his skillset translates more to the PK at the professional level. His strengths in the defensive zone make him a naturally penalty-killer who can abruptly end an offensive possession and clear the puck.
Regarding the power play, there is a chance he could become that net front presence. However, chances are there will always be someone ahead of him that can perform more reliably on the man-advantage.
Consistent effort is not an area in which Jackson Cates is lacking. His presence is immediately felt whenever he touches the ice, and the foot doesn’t let up off the gas pedal. Additionally, he does not shy away from the physical game, willing to lay out hits on opposing players. Conversely, Cates absorbs hits well, lessening their overall impact.
At times this season, the Flyers look like a team without energy. Have no fear. Philadelphia is not investing in another player with that issue in the Jackson Cates signing.
An effective two-way forward at the collegiate level, Cates projects to be more of a fourth-line player if he makes it to the NHL. The potential to score a few goals here and there exist. However, his issues with the puck on his stick places limits on the impact he will have in the offensive zone.
If the Flyers can put together three solid forward lines, Cates may fit nicely in a role where his main focus is defense. Of course, Philadelphia can always use some extra help on the penalty kill.
Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire
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