The Philadelphia Flyers signed a Cates brother out of Minnesota Duluth on Tuesday to a two-year entry-level NHL contract, but not the one they drafted.

Instead, older brother Jackson Cates went first, agreeing to a deal with the Flyers that begins with the 2020-21 season. He’ll report immediately to the Flyers, who sit sixth in the East Division with 14 games remaining in the regular season after Tuesday’s game at Washington.

The Bulldogs’ junior center went undrafted out of Stillwater High School, and had his pick of where to sign in the NHL this offseason. He chose the team that drafted his younger brother, Noah, a fifth-round pick in 2017.

“It’s a great organization and it’s a great fit for me. I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Jackson Cates, who attended the Flyers development camp two seasons ago with Noah. “It’s crazy, it’s literally a dream come true. I’m at a loss for words. I’m very excited for the next chapter.”

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Jackson Cates, who centered UMD’s most dangerous line at the end of the season along with senior wing Kobe Roth and Koby Bender, was second on the Bulldogs in scoring with 11 goals and a team-best 16 assists for 27 points — all career-highs and one point back of senior wing Nick Swaney, who signed with the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

Jackson Cates finishes his UMD career with 27 goals and 37 assists in 96 games, helping the Bulldogs to two Frozen Fours in 2019 and 2021 while also winning the NCHC Frozen Faceoff title and national championship in 2019.

“It was a big year for me and a lot of fun,” Jackson Cates said. “I can’t thank Duluth and the coaching staff and all the guys enough. It wouldn’t be possible without them. I give all the credit to them. It’s been a fun ride.”

Noah Cates, who captained the Bulldogs this season as a junior, is also expected to sign with the Flyers this offseason, though when reached by phone on Tuesday, Noah Cates said no decision about his future had been finalized yet.

St. Cloud State's Sam Hentges and Minnesota Duluth's Jackson Cates battle for position in the second period of a 2021 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
St. Cloud State's Sam Hentges and Minnesota Duluth's Jackson Cates battle for position in the second period of a 2021 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Whatever happens, it's now a matter of when, not if, the brothers will play together again at the professional level.

"Jackson is a player that our staff has followed closely throughout his college career," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said in the announcement. "He's a tenacious two-way center that has steadily improved his overall game each season. He's been an integral part of a very successful college program at UMD and we're excited to see him take his game to the next level."

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