Finally: The Flyers Call Up Top Defensive Prospect Cam York
In a move that I have personally lobbied for since the season’s dawn, the Flyers have finally called up their top defenseman prospect in Cam York.
York has performed quite well down in the AHL with the Phantoms. He’s posted 3 goals and 10 assists for 13 points in 20 games.
He notched his 13th point just last night with a beautiful feed to his fellow prospect Tyson Foerster. It snapped a multi-game pointless streak. One that seemed more like a spate of poor luck than anything else.
Tyson Foerster (7)'s goal from tonights game against Hartford. What a rocket @billmeltzer @JameyBaskow pic.twitter.com/gRISPqi3ag— Flyers Clips (@Flyers_Clips) December 8, 2022
That pass—layered in deception and delivered with sublime touch—is a microcosm of what York brings to the NHL game.
He sees the ice with tremendous clarity and has the passing prowess to hit whatever target he desires with a dime right on the tape. He’s displayed this ability last season during his stint with the Flyers.
Cam York reminds me so much of Ghost in his good years. pic.twitter.com/UMLCK3UY01— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) April 2, 2022
There’s a conservative leaning to the plays and the passes he chooses to make. When harnessed properly, it makes him a tremendous game manager. Someone who can be trusted down the stretch, late in competitive games. Someone who–by the virtue of his presence–tilts the ice in his team’s favor.
This, too, was an ability he displayed during his last tint. His pairing with Ivan Provorov–despite receiving the hard minutes of a top pair–was the Flyers’ best at tilting the ice.
That number–a 49% expected goal share per Natural Stat Trick–has yet to be replicated by any pair to play top-4 minutes this season, including Provorov and Tony DeAngelo.
York’s poise and willingness to make the simple play makes him less turnover prone than many offensive defenseman in the league.
But his conservative tendencies can be taken to excess still. His last stint in the NHL, he would choose to make the puck someone else’s problem rather than seizing the opportunity to generate offense far too often.
It was this overdone conservative play that led him to be sent down in the first place.
“When he came up, he was just playing it safe,” assistant GM Brent Flahr told the Inquirer. “That’s fine initially. But we need him to impact games and be the guy that we drafted.”
John Tortorella echoed these sentiments all the way back when he was sent down to begin with.
“For me, with Yorky, it’s not the physical skills. It’s the mental skills. I think it’s him learning to want be the guy that makes the difference and then being that player,” Tortorella said.
Cam York has grown used to being, in his view, a cog in the machine. Someone who gets the puck up to his forwards and lets his forwards go to work.
When the forwards are Jack Hughes, Matthew Boldy, and Cole Caufield… that might be the ideal style of play. There’s no reason for a defenseman to get in their way, no matter how gifted they might be in their own right.
But York has the talent to be much more than a cog in the machine. And for the sake of the Flyers’ future, he needs to be more. He has the ability to be an engine that powers a machine. His skating, his skill level, and his vision are all top-shelf.
If the Flyers are calling up York now, then they clearly believe that Cam has put into practice what they’ve been preaching to him. They must have seen meaningful steps forward in his assertiveness and his willingness to take risks on the ice.
Yesterday, I mocked the Flyers for sending down Zamula to play “big minutes” when they already have York doing the same.
But this move indicates that they’re well aware of that little problem, and have already found a solution.
They believe York is here to stay, and to continue his development with the NHL roster. While they’re in the midst of a tank-a-thon unrivalled, they will allow potential future cornerstones to take their lumps in the big leagues.
While letting future players who need more refinement than York–like Egor Zamula–to rule the roost of the AHL.
For both Zamula and York, I’m excited to see the results.
At long last, the Flyers are doing things that are marginally interesting.
Mandatory Credit: Johnny Ulecka