Cates makes his crazy journey from UMD to Olympics to Flyers

What are only pipe dreams for some, Noah Cates experienced in only a few months.

Since the calendar flipped to 2022, the Stillwater native has competed for the United States at the Beijing Olympics and wrapped up a successful stint with Minnesota Duluth that included a national championship in 2019 and pair of seasons as captain.

Now, Cates has graduated to the NHL after signing with the Flyers.

And the forward’s first game? In front of family and friends on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center against the Wild.

“I think more after this season, I’ll take some time and reflect and decompress a little bit,” said Cates, a fifth-round draft pick by Philadelphia in 2017. “It’s been really crazy and a lot. But this is what you live for. I’m young. I’m ready. It’s kind of what you dream of.

Only days ago, Cates was still suiting up for the Bulldogs.

But after UMD was eliminated by Denver on Saturday in an NCAA regional final to miss out on a fifth trip to the Frozen Four, Cates signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Flyers on Sunday — this after he played four games at the Olympics where he scored a goal as an alternate captain.

“Obviously kind of a whirlwind,” said Cates, who was expecting his UMD teammates to be at Xcel Energy Center for his NHL debut. “It happened pretty quick. Obviously disappointing that my four years at Duluth are over. It was an awesome four years with all the memories and people up there that are so special to me. Just closing the page pretty quickly coming down here, it made it — not going to say hurt any less — but I kind of turned the page a little quicker.

Philadelphia connections

Cates’ brother, Jacksonis also signed by Philadelphia and has split time this season between the American Hockey League and NHL, logging 11 games with the Flyers.

And Philadelphia interim coach and former Wild bench boss Mike Yeo’s son Kyler played with Cates when Cates was a teenager on the Minnesota Icemen.

“It’s making me feel really old,” Yeo said. “At that time, and I think it was probably something that helped him, he was a small player and when you’re a small player, you look at a guy like [Wild defenseman] Jared Spurgeon And how he has to think his way around the ice and what makes him such a high hockey sense player is because his whole life, he was like that.

“Noah was like that when he was younger, and now he’s got the bonus of being about 6-2, even though he was forced to think the game at such a high level. That’s what I remember about him. He was the kind of guy you could play with top players or against top players. Even at a young age, he played a very mature game.”

Hentges signs

The Wild signed forward Sam Hentges to a two-year, entry-level contract that begins next season.

Hentges just finished his college career with St. Cloud State after racking up 12 goals and 10 assists in 20 games as a senior. Overall, in four seasons with the Huskies, Hentges totaled 37 goals and 46 assists for 83 points.

A native of New Brighton, the 22-year-old also played for the United States at the Winter Olympics. Hentges was drafted in the seventh round, No. 210, by the Wild in 2018.

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