In an effort to create as much competition as possible in their forward group for training camp, Andrew Gross of Newsday is reporting that the New York Islanders have signed Jackson Cates to a professional tryout agreement. An undrafted free agent signing by the Philadelphia only three years ago, Cates became a Group Six UFA this offseason.
Up to this point, Cates has been unable to transfer his high level of play during his last season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to the professional level. Capping off his last year of play in the NCAA during the 2020-21 season, Cates would play in 28 games for the Bulldogs, scoring 11 goals and 16 assists, helping his team reach the 2021 Frozen Four.
Over the next three seasons, Cates primarily played for the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, suiting up in 102 regular season games, scoring 13 goals and 20 assists in two seasons. Without much of an opportunity at the NHL level, Cates has only played in 20 total games for Philadelphia, registering one goal and one assist, averaging just under nine and a half minutes of ice time per game.
As the Islanders are currently constructed, it will be incredibly unlikely to see Cates make the team out of training camp. Per CapFriendly, the team already has a projected 14 forwards ready to take on NHL minutes, without also factoring in the return of forward Oliver Wahlstrom, who will be cleared to play following a lower-body injury in April.
At the very least, if Cates does perform well in training camp for New York, there is a real possibility that the team could offer him a two-way contract and store him in the AHL for much of next season. However, with there being a handful of forwards ahead of him on the depth chart, it would seem unlikely that the team would offer him a call-up even in the case of injuries to their active roster.