Flyers

With Carter Hart, new coach, Flyers finally playing with heart

With Carter Hart, new coach, Flyers finally playing with heart

Playing with Hart suddenly has the Flyers now playing with heart.

If the small details matter in the game of hockey, consider Thursday’s 2-1 win over the Predators actually started Wednesday morning when newly-hired head coach Scott Gordon canceled practice, giving his players a much needed “mental break.”

Gordon still hasn’t had a full practice since he was named interim coach Monday morning, but recognizing something more important than implementing his system was a big step in the team’s preparation. 

“It was kinda cool, because he mentioned it wasn’t really physical rest is what we needed,” Travis Konecny said. “Just a lot went on the road trip, all the changes going on, like a mental thing to just go home and relax and not put on the gear that extra time. It was a smart play.”

Jakub Voracek thought the Flyers had a lot of energy as a result of the time away.

It has provided the Flyers newfound confidence to win the close, defensive-minded games they simply let slip through the fingertips under Dave Hakstol. Prior to Tuesday, the Flyers were 1-15-2 in their first 31 games when scoring three goals or fewer. In the past three days, they’ve doubled that win total. Konecny believes players are buying in after it seemed obvious they were tuned out on the trip to Western Canada.

“It just wasn’t working at the time,” Konecny said. "(Gordon) has done a great of coming in and kinda adapting to how our team plays and changing a few things and we did a good job listening. I just think everyone’s buying in right now and doing the little things.”

Konecny’s play was proof of that. After blocking a second-period shot that left him in dire pain on the bench, he came back out a few shifts later and stripped defenseman Anthony Bitetto in the neutral zone that led to Claude Giroux’s game-winning goal.

Or the human dartboard defenseman Robert Hagg performed during the Flyers' two-minute 5-on-3 penalty kill when he blocked a pair of shots that left a resounding thud. In all, Hagg blocked five shots and earned the player of the game helmet handed down by his goaltender Carter Hart.

Hagg also took a shot off his hand that left his fingers trembling afterward when he spoke to the media.

“Yeah, it’s hurting but it’s worth it,” Hagg said. “I don’t how many PKs we had, but every single guy that was on the ice did a hell of a good job.”

The Flyers were a perfect 6 for 6, with Hart shutting the door when the guys in front of him couldn’t block those shots. It was a much more demanding test than his victory Tuesday over the Red Wings.

“Like night and day better,” Hart said. “I could feel it in warmups. I wasn’t as anxious. I had a good chat with my sports psychologist last night. I was a bit overwhelmed on Tuesday and had to bring things back to reality."

If you’re wondering if Hart is merely holding down the fort until Brian Elliott or Anthony Stolarz return to full health, Chuck Fletcher suggested that’s not necessarily the case. The Flyers' GM spoke on The Power Play show on SiriusXM radio just hours before Thursday’s game.

“It’s hard to predict, but as long as he’s playing, I’ll be happy and winning games up here that’s great,” Fletcher said. “We won’t put any limits on him.”

Makes it sound like the GM is buying into this new Hartbeat as well.

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Noah Cates is a prospect the Flyers 'can't stop bragging about'

zack_hill_philadelphia_flyers_noah_cates.jpg
Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Noah Cates is a prospect the Flyers 'can't stop bragging about'

The Flyers selected Noah Cates during the fifth round of the 2017 NHL draft, plucking him out of Stillwater Area High School in Minnesota with the 137th overall pick.

At the time, Brent Flahr, Chuck Fletcher and the Minnesota Wild were sitting at No. 147.

"A kid like Cates was right in our backyard," Flahr said. "One thing in Minnesota when you are there, you hate when Minnesota players, especially the good ones, go ahead of you."

Flahr can now thank Flyers amateur scout Nick Pryor. As the assistant general manager of the Flyers, Flahr no longer has to kick himself for missing out on Cates.

"Nick Pryor did a good job," Flahr said last month at development camp. "He was right near his house. They got him. He looks like a real good prospect for us."


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

As a fifth-round pick out of high school, Cates was once well below the surface in the Flyers' prospect pool. With time and hard work, he's beginning to blossom — and the Flyers see it. 

"We talk about him every day and we can't stop bragging about him," Flyers player development coach Kjell Samuelsson said. "He's quietly gotten better and better every year, and everything we ask him to do, he's doing it."

In 2017-18, Cates scored nearly a point per game (21 goals, 34 assists) over 60 contests with the USHL's Omaha Lancers. He then followed it up by playing an important role for 2019 national champion University of Minnesota Duluth, recording 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and a plus-12 mark through 40 games as a freshman.

What made the national title even sweeter was winning it alongside his brother Jackson Cates, for a school just shy of a 2½-hour drive from his parents Jeff and Jenny Cates.

"Awesome," Cates said. "I think they were at every game this year. It was so much easier for them that we were in the same spot, a couple hours from home. They're obviously so proud of us."

Couple his freshman year with a goal and two assists for the U.S. in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and it was a productive 2018-19 for Cates.

"Just grew so much, developed so much with the college game — living on my own, going to school and everything like that," Cates said. "Just an awesome year all around and capping it off with that national championship was so special with my family."

Cates is far from the skinny, offense-first player he was in high school. He's gone from 6-foot-1, 165 pounds to 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. He's a smart, all-situation thinker — in large part because of his development with the Bulldogs and trust from head coach Scott Sandelin.

"My role kind of grew as the year went on, got more comfortable," Cates said. "A little bit of power play, some penalty kill, last-minute stuff — that's important to play in all those key situations, so important moving on to have that experience. To do it for a team like that, it was really special. I can't say enough good things about that program and the whole year in general. Coach Sandelin gave me a lot of opportunity and I'm so grateful for that opportunity and took advantage of it."

The Flyers noticed.

"He scored goals, he's on the ice when you're protecting leads, he's killing penalties," Samuelsson said. "He's a very rounded hockey player."

Cates said it's too early to tell how long he'll stay in school.

"When you're on a team like that and with a program like that, you don't want to leave too early and maybe hurt your career," Cates said, "especially with the opportunity that's in Duluth."

After all, there's no real rush. Flahr, Fletcher and the Flyers know him well.

"So happy to be in Philadelphia," Cates said.

"I just need to play the way I can play, especially these next couple years with my development. They're on board with that, they're happy with where I'm at, but I've got to keep making strides."

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Breaking down 2019-20 third-line competition after Flyers' signing of Chris Stewart to pro tryout

Breaking down 2019-20 third-line competition after Flyers' signing of Chris Stewart to pro tryout

You can never have enough competition.

There will be plenty of it when training camp rolls around in September as the Flyers have a third-line job opening on the wing.

General manager Chuck Fletcher added a candidate Wednesday by signing forward Chris Stewart to an NHL pro tryout for camp.

Stewart, 31, was a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Avalanche and has played 652 career NHL games between six teams. His best season came as a 22-year-old with the Avalanche in 2009-10, when he scored 64 points (28 goals, 36 assists) over 77 games. Last season, he played in the EIHL for the Nottingham Panthers, scoring 13 points (six goals, seven assists) through 23 games.

The 6-foot-2, 242-pound winger has ties to the Flyers' GM. He played parts of three seasons for Fletcher's Wild from 2014 to 2018, putting up 25 goals, 20 assists and a plus-6 rating in 146 games.

The Flyers like their options for the third-line winger vacancy. The names include Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe, German Rubtsov, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Andy Andreoff and Kurtis Gabriel.

Farabee and Frost have drawn a lot of attention as young first-round draft picks coming off big seasons with Boston University (see story) and the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (see story), respectively. Rubtsov is an underrated option given his size, advanced game and positional versatility. Ratcliffe is a 6-foot-6 winger who scored 50 goals last season with the OHL's Guelph Storm, while Vorobyev saw time with the Flyers in 2018-19.

"It's more than Farabee and Frost," Fletcher said July 1. "I think Rubtsov had a tremendous prospect camp here. Ratcliffe is a quality young player. Vorobyev is a young man that we feel is going to come back next year a little bit stronger.

"There are several players down there that can play games, never mind Andreoff, who's a player that I think will make a very strong push to make our team this season. Kurtis Gabriel is a player that's played games in the NHL the past few seasons. We have a lot of options. That's what training camp is for — it's an opportunity for players to come in and show that they belong. It should be an exciting camp."

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