VOORHEES, N.J. — Noah Cates was just a teenager playing high school hockey in Minnesota.
Then he spun himself into a national sensation.
Back in February 2016, Cates scored a goal you see in movies with a fairytale finish. To push Stillwater Area High School into the Class 2A state tournament, Cates shook the only defender in sight with a stunning spin move before reaching around the goalie and finding the net for the punctuation.
The result was a 1-0 overtime win and pure chaos in the stands. What ensued over the following days, Cates never could have imagined.
"Oh geez," he said with a smile last week at Flyers development camp. "Attention right away, but it was just a crazy experience all around. That, and the next couple days with the tourney and stuff — it was a great time in my life playing high school hockey with all my friends."
Cates, a junior at the time, was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays, while the goal made waves on the internet across national media outlets.
All while he was preparing for states.
"It was just a whirlwind those couple days, but it was unbelievable," he said. "Unforgettable."
Cates is now moving on from Stillwater, looking to write a new chapter of his young but already exciting hockey career. His junior season ended in the semifinals of the state tournament. As a senior, Cates racked up 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) in 25 regular-season games.
A little over a month after high school graduation, Cates was skating on the Flyers' practice ice and seeing the NHL life. The 18-year-old left winger was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the June entry draft and took part in the team's six-day July development camp.
"Just see what elite players are like from my age, year older, two years older," Cates said of the Flyers' annual youth gathering. "See what I need to work on, see what the next steps should look like for me and my development.
"It was definitely cool to see but you try to calm down. They drafted me, so you've got to feel you belong here."
Cates will play for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in 2017-18 before starting his college career at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2018-19. He still has long ways to go in accomplishing the NHL dream, but his potential was obvious at development camp. Cates stands at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, and brings a slick shot as well as strong puck skills, as evident by his famous goal.
"I like skill, I like trying new stuff," he said. "Just kind of try new stuff, try new things out there."
Getting a feel for the Flyers was a nice start to his year of preparation for the college ranks in the USHL.
"Strength and speed, just getting bigger, faster, stronger," Cates said of what he hopes to improve. "Those players, you see them out here, they're so big, strong and skilled. They'll be tough to keep up with them, but if you're in the weight room and you're working out hard, it'll make it easier."
It's all part of moving on from high school. He'll never forget the spin and goal to send Stillwater into states — and how could he? It's hard to top such a memory.
An NHL goal might do it.