Film shows why Travis Sanheim should be here to stay

Film shows why Travis Sanheim should be here to stay

With a rookie defenseman out with an injury and veteran day to day, an opportunity arose Saturday for a second chance.

From here, Travis Sanheim got a passing grade.

After a seven-week stint in the AHL, Sanheim was back in The Show following an emergency call-up because of injuries to Robert Hagg (two weeks) and Johnny Oduya (day to day).

“When I went down,” Sanheim said, “I wanted to get that next opportunity. It’s unfortunate with the injuries, but I got a chance here to take advantage of the opportunity.”

In his first NHL action since Jan. 13, Sanheim more than doubled his ice time while playing a much more controlled game in all three zones while paired with Andrew MacDonald.

Sanheim played 12 minutes, 44 seconds during the Flyers2-1 win over the Jets, registering a shot on goal and finishing as a plus-1. What he did best didn’t show up in the box score.

“Right from the first shift, he was aggressive,” MacDonald said. “He made some really nice stick plays in the neutral zone and broke up some plays. Sent their guys in on great transition plays. I think he made that nice stretch pass from behind our net right away and you could tell he was feeling comfortable and confident. That’s a heck of a way to come back in.”

Let’s look at two plays from one shift in the first period that helped set the tone for Sanheim.

Here, Jets center Jack Roslovic finds himself on a 1-on-2 with Sanheim and MacDonald, who both play their gaps well. Roslovic doesn’t have many options as he crosses the red line.

Roslovic attempts to cut toward the sideboards with his momentum, but Sanheim positioned himself well to defend and attacks with a stick check, breaking up any potential danger.

One of Sanheim’s flaws before his demotion was stick checking, but on Saturday, he took calculated risks as to when to attack.

Another high point from Sanheim was a stretch pass that came about 18 seconds before impeding Roslovic. This time, Sanheim did what he does best.

Sanheim gathers the puck behind Petr Mrazek with four Jets in the Flyers’ zone. Matt Read and Scott Laughton begin their breakouts as Sanheim canvasses the ice.

As two Winnipeg players get back and another attempts to pressure Sanheim, the blueliner fires a stretch pass, hitting Laughton in stride. Laughton doesn’t get a scoring chance because the Jets defended well, but Sanheim’s pass is the highlight.

We know Sanheim’s puck-moving and offensive instincts are NHL-ready; what needed fine-tuning, whether we agree with where it needed to take place, was his play in his own end.

It was one game, but Sanheim played well against the Jets. The Flyers snapped a five-game losing streak, and they did so with Sanheim fitting nicely on the second pair.

Sanheim deserves another game, but will he get it? We'll see.

“He just looked like a guy who got his game back a little bit," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.

It's back to school for Flyers prospect Noah Cates

Philadelphia Flyers

It's back to school for Flyers prospect Noah Cates

Noah Cates became a hit in high school.

His first year after graduation, though, he didn't exactly mind being away from the classroom. From Stillwater, Minnesota, Cates traveled south to Omaha, Nebraska, for a full season of USHL hockey with the Lancers.

A nice, little perk to the decision?

"No school that year for me, so that was fun just to play hockey," Cates said with a smile three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "Develop, work on everything."

Despite not hitting the books, Cates, a 2017 fifth-round draft pick of the Flyers, learned a lot, gaining a knowledge base he'll use moving forward.

Because it's back to school.

In mid-to-late August, the 19-year-old is headed to the University of Minnesota Duluth to continue his education and hockey career with the 2018 national champions, where he'll be joined by his older brother Jackson Cates.

"Very excited," the younger Cates said.

A year away from home to prepare for the college hockey life did Cates well. He grew on and off the ice, which built confidence — especially important ahead of development camp, a world junior summer showcase and his freshman season.

"Just how to be a pro, show up every day," Cates said. "It's a long season but you have to be consistent — that was a big part for me. Consistently, doing the right thing, day in and day out.

"It's all about confidence. If you're confident you can play with those guys and that your body can hold up, you can do it. That's just a big part of it and what I developed this year."

Cates, a left winger with a true offensive skill set, came on strong after a feeling-out start to the season in which he totaled 14 points (six goals, eight assists) over his first 22 games. From then on, he broke out for 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in his final 38 contests, finishing second on the Lancers with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 60 games, while posting a plus-21 rating. 

"Second-half league for me, just got more comfortable with the team, the coaches, the league," Cates said. "The team did well, so I kind of fit in, did my part."

The offense has always been a part of Cates' game. Beyond the statistics, what truly stood out from the 2017-18 season was the added strength to his 6-foot-1 frame. Cates weighed 165 pounds at 2017 development camp. He said he started the year with Omaha at 170. Impressively, by season's end, he was a solid 180 to 185.

"That was a big part, how I progressed throughout the season," Cates said. "That was my main goal going there to step into college hockey and get ready to play against those older guys, so it was a really good season in that case."

Cates will now take his next test — back in class and on the ice.

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

Nolan Patrick's rookie season can be split into two halves, but his performance down the stretch has caught the attention of one national pundit.

NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson, who played 12 years in the league, selected Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season during Friday night's "NHL Tonight."

Johnson scored 375 points in 661 NHL games from 1996-2008 and last played in the league during the 2007-08 campaign with the St. Louis Blues.

Behind Johnson's reasoning for picking Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player was the Flyers' center's two-way instincts, ability to finish, size and a full summer of training ahead of him.

"We know his injury history, his lack of proper training, his lack of ability to hit the gym properly," Johnson said, "and he's still strong on the wall. That's only going to get better as he matures physically."

For what it's worth, Connor McDavid was NHL Network's No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season — that was a bit of a softball.

As for Patrick, the center joined "NHL Tonight" on Friday to discuss the honor and also provide an update on how his summer is going.

"Coming off that surgery last year," Patrick said, "I had a slow start. It took a while to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. I missed two summers of training. It's been the first summer for me in a while that I've been back in the gym."

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, finished with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 regular-season games. He missed nine games in October and November because of a concussion and spent most of the first half of the season getting his mobility back after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery. In fact, he's lost his past two summers of training because of surgery.

Prior to his final junior season and his draft year, Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery. Then 10 days before the Flyers drafted him, he went under the knife again.

Now he's fully healthy and has a full summer of training.

"First time I can get after it," Patrick said during the team's exit interviews in April (see story). "It's going to be a big summer for me. I'm not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I'm looking to take big steps here."

Once Patrick began feeling healthier, he started getting a bigger role with the Flyers. He was elevated to the team's second-line center and stuck. He also found a role on the power play.

The 19-year-old posted 17 points in the final 25 games, which translates to a respectable 0.68 points per game clip and 55 points over an 82-game schedule. Not too bad for a rookie who couldn't actually train during his previous two offseasons.

"My coaches pushed me throughout the year. Then they gave me more opportunity," Patrick told the NHL Network. "Jake Voracek was huge for me. He thinks the game so well. The puck protection that guy has, you just got to get open for him.

"I think my body also just felt better as the year went on. I kind of took a while to get my skating legs there, so I think in the second half, I had a little more pep in my step."

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