I’ll be exploring the same random prospects from around the NHL and stopped in Philadelphia first. They need a lot of help next year from their younger players, so I’ve identified a few who may be able to do that. Neither is a lock to make the big club, but they have a chance.
Noah Cates – I’ve liked him in the middle or on the wing. Since he’s on the wing currently, and he likes it there, I’ll assume that’s where he will be next year. While he was doing a lot of winning at Minnesota Duluth with his brother and teammate again, Jackson, some other things stood out even from his USHL days with the Omaha Lancers.
I always feel like you should look at what they were early in their career to be able to gauge how far a player has come. In the USHL I saw a goal-scoring touch. A terrific skater and a guy who could play center.
At Minnesota Duluth, he did anything to win. He played a shutdown role as well as an offensive role. The coaching and winning atmosphere that Scott Sandelin has created are amazing. Sandelin once played for the Flyers and could easily be an NHL coach, but he likes his job security and perks of the job, so I don’t think he’ll be on the Flyers coaching search list for very long. I’d put him on a preliminary one and talk to him. Why not?
Cates has a great hockey I.Q. He’s always around the puck, and his play away from the puck is as good as a lot of the veterans on the team. He fit in seamlessly for the Flyers and showed that nose for the net with his five goals.
He’s still a top-nine talent, but now I believe with some more experience, he could be a second liner someday. He’s a guy you can count on for 5-on-5 scoring. If you give him power-play time, his points will increase. Let’s see if the next coach puts him on at least the second power play.
Isaac Ratcliffe – The 6-6 left wing took a big step this year. He played better in the NHL as compared to Lehigh. Considering the mess that the Phantoms became, it’s understandable. Mike Yeo bailed out on Ratcliffe this season, and he shouldn’t have.
In Guelph, he was a big time scorer. That wasn’t going to fully translate. I think the Flyers knew that as well. With bigger power forwards they have more moving parts in their game, and it takes them a bit longer than some other prospects, but generally speaking, it’s worth the wait.
Ratcliffe is a bottom-six guy for sure. Now healthy, his goal-scoring came through in Lehigh as he got 11 this year, and he added one with three helpers with the Flyers. That’s great. That’s a real improvement. Ratcliffe should have gotten more than 10 NHL games this year. But at least he got that.
Ratcliffe has improved on his speed, and his wrist shot is still wicked but needs some space to work. In the end, winning battles in the crease, is what worked for him in junior hockey, and that’s starting to show up this year. If he is to make the squad next year, it would likely be in a fourth line role. We will see what the next coach thinks.