Connect with us


With Back-End in Tatters, Cam York Leading the Way When Flyers Need It Most

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

The 2019 NHL Entry Draft was loaded with top-end talent and with the Philadelphia Flyers carrying the 11th overall selection in the summer festivities, there were a lot of bonafide prospects that tickled everyone’s fancy.

Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko were the consensus number one and number two picks and both players landed with divisional rivals in the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, respectively. The draft didn’t really start until the third overall pick that belonged to Chicago. They ended up taking Kirby Dach, Bowen Byram went next to Colorado, and the Los Angeles Kings rounded things out with Alex Turcotte.

The five remaining picks until Chuck Fletcher and company made their first ever selection as members of the Flyers organization went as followed: Moritz Seider to Detroit, Dylan Cozens to Buffalo, Philip Broberg to Edmonton, Trevor Zegras to Anaheim, and Vasily Podkolzin to Vancouver. Understanding the landscape and what teams between 11-13 were looking for, Fletcher decided to trade the 11th pick to Arizona for the 14th pick and a second rounder.

Victor Söderström went 11th to Arizona, Matt Boldy went 12th to Minnesota, and Spencer Knight was the first goalie off the board at 13 to Florida – all things that Fletcher and the rest of the organization full well knew. When he stepped up to the podium and announced that they were “proud to select from the U.S. National Team Development Program…” the majority of the fan base assumed it was going to be forward, Cole Caufield – a goal scoring winger that the club desperately needed.

Instead, it was defenseman Cam York.

Many were upset considering the fact that Caufield – who was ranked as high as 9th in Bob McKenzie’s final rankings – was still available when the team needed an offensive player. He was taken with the very next pick by Montréal and has turned into a great young goal-scorer with 3 consecutive 20-goal seasons under his belt. He has 73 goals and 137 points in 190 games for a rebuilding Canadiens team and is still a focal point of their offense and future plans.

York would spend one more season at the University of Michigan before taking the leap to professional hockey at the end of his 2020-21 season. He tallied 20 points in just 24 games for Michigan before seeing 3 games with the Flyers and another 8 games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He split his time almost evenly between the NHL and AHL in 2021-22 with 10 points in 30 games for the Flyers compared to 12 points in 34 games for the Phantoms.

He had a fantastic opportunity to finally break the team outright from training camp in 2022 but John Tortorella felt like he saw enough in the early parts of the camp and sent him down to the minors. He sent him down with a message that he needs to be more confident and play to his skills and while he was down there, he blossomed with 13 points in just 20 games before getting the call in November. He stuck around the final 54 games of the season and added 20 points.

At then-22 years of age and with 87 games under his belt at the NHL level in parts of 3 seasons, York finally settled himself as a top-tier defenseman for the Flyers, especially with the departure of Ivan Provorov. He’s had his ups and downs this season but has really blossomed into the player that they envisioned drafting back in 2019 over Caufield. He’s tallied a career-high in goals and points with 9 and 27, respectively, while playing a career-best 22:00 minutes per game and has 140 blocked shots to 63 hits in 68 games, further proof of his transition into a two-way defender.

Last year, York averaged 19:39 TOI and had just 69 blocked shots to 44 hits in 54 games. York also only saw 21.6 minutes while shorthanded compared to the 171.3 he’s seen this year and he’s been more of a focal point on the power play than in previous seasons with 136.2 minutes compared to the 94 he received last year. He’s calm, cool, collected, used in every situation imaginable, and has the offensive capabilities to run a power play – if Rocky Thompson ever gives him the free reign, let alone the opportunity.

What’s been even more impressive – and even more important – is that he’s stepped his game up to a whole new level with 3 defensemen placed on IR and another one moved ahead of the trade deadline. With a full compliment of defensemen available, Tortorella was able to spread the wealth but over his last 10 games, York has 3 goals and 9 points to go along with an even-rating and has averaged 23:54 TOI. Alongside Travis Sanheim, York is the anchor on the back-end for the foreseeable future, but the Flyers desperately need some help in the meantime.

There’s been very little news regarding the health of Jamie Drysdale, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Nick Seeler but with their playoff hopes slowly falling out of their grasp, it’s gut-check time and players like York are going to be leaned on even more. In their recent loss to Boston over the weekend, York skated 27:18, added 2 assists, was a plus-2 in a game where they allowed 5 even-strength goals, and had 4 blocked shots. In fact over his last 7 games, he’s totaled 27 blocked shots, which is leaps and bounds above anyone else.

The 23-year-old will be an important building block for whatever Daniel Brière, Keith Jones, and John Tortorella build in Philadelphia for the present and the future. He’s signed for one more season beyond 2023-24 at a relatively low cap hit of $1.6 million and has been worth every penny and then some with his overall play this season.

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation

More in Analysis