How does Cates’ injury impact the Flyers?

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Flyers' Noah Cates
Philadelphia Flyers’ Noah Cates, left, tries to keep away from Carolina Hurricanes’ Jalen Chatfield during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Flyers announced on Tuesday that forward Noah Cates will be out after suffering a lower-body injury, later revealed to be a broken foot. The injury will keep him out for six to eight weeks and his absence will impact the team.

“The frustrating thing for me with Catesy was we put him on the wing; we leaned in him a little bit about trying to create some offense, and I thought he probably had his best offensive game. [He] breaks his foot I think at the beginning of the second period, plays through it. A little frustrating that we couldn’t see him more after playing a pretty good offensive game, but it’s going to give people opportunities.”

John Tortorella; 11/28/2023

Cates showcased his NHL-ready talent, putting up 38 points (13G, 25A) in his first full NHL season. He averaged 17:46 each game. What made Cates’ performance last season more impressive was that he did all of this after switching from his natural position, left wing, to center. Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson were out of the lineup the entire season, and Cates possessed critical versatility.

This season, Cates garnered four points (1G, 3A) in the first 21 games. His ice time took a dip, averaging 14:25 each game, expected as the lineup became healthy. His contributions to the team aren’t going unnoticed. Couturier cited how Cates’ absence will impact the Flyers:

“It’s a big loss. He plays some big minutes, hard minutes for us. It’s going to be I think a collective effort to kind of step up and fill in those minutes. He’s a big part of this team. I’ve said it before, people maybe don’t realize it, but he does a lot of the little things that go noticed to us but maybe not to the fans. It’ll be up to us to step up and fill in that role.”

Sean Couturier 11/28/2023

A two-way forward, Cates suited well on defense to begin the season, slotting in the bottom nine of the lineup. His versatility kept him in the lineup, combined with his work on the penalty kill. In one of his more productive performances of the season, John Tortorella slotted Cates to the wing, putting Ryan Poehling at center during the shutout win over the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Tortorella wanted to unlock offense, and Cates moved the puck effectively. Cates didn’t log a point, but he created scoring chances, took three shots on Ilya Sorokin, and was utilized for 26 shifts, leading all Flyers forwards. The trust placed in Cates during his second season with Tortorella is precious, ensuring his game is better than his stat line indicates.

Impacting the Roster

Other players will receive more consistent playing time. Bobby Brink and Morgan Frost should be expected to have a place in the lineup together each night because Tortorella is down to 12 forwards.

Flyers' Morgan Frost
Philadelphia Flyers center Morgan Frost celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

How many games Frost has been a healthy scratch is one of the bigger storylines this season despite the current placement of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division standings. He has sat out of the lineup for 10 of the 22 games. In his sample size, Frost put up four points (2G, 2A). His displacement or placement is a polarizing issue.

Usually, Frost or Brink are the odd-men-out. Lacking depth at center with Cates injured, they’ll both be in. Tortorella didn’t have an established role for Frost in the lineup, wanting to put him in the top six in an offensive position.

“I know I need to get him in. I want to get him in. I just have not seen an opening for him right now. I’m not going to put Frosty [Frost] in to a checking role or play him on the fourth line. If I’m going to put him back in, it’s going to be in an offensive situation.”

John Tortorella 10/23/2023

Opportunity is knocking for Frost and Brink. It’ll be up to them to make it a tough decision for Tortorella to remove them from the lineup when Cates recovers.

“We’re not going to wait around, as far as if things aren’t working out because we got twelve forwards here now, right? If we’re not happy about certain things, we’ll dip and give other people opportunities. That’s where we’re at. I’m not trying to threaten anybody, but we’ve got to get more out of some people, and they’re going to get the opportunity, but we’re not going to live with it the whole time Catesy’s out.”

John Tortorella; 11/28/2023

Last night versus the Carolina Hurricanes, these were the forward lines:


Unafraid to dip into the Lehigh Valley Phantoms pool, Tortorella said will consider other options if forwards do not step up in the interim.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)