We’ve finally reached the pinnacle of our staff countdown of the Philadelphia Flyers’ top 10 prospects ahead of the 2022-23 season and landing at the top spot is none other than Cameron York.
A first-round pick in 2019 taken out of of the University of Michigan with the No. 14 overall pick, York has developed into the Flyers’ top defensive prospect thanks to a diverse skill set on the blue line with upside of quarterbacking an NHL powerplay and consistent puck moving defender.
No. 1: Cam York
2021-22 League/Team: Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL), Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
2021-22 Statistics: 2 G, 10 A, 12 P in 34 GP (AHL), 3 G, 7 A, 10 P in 30 GP (NHL)
Acquired: Drafted No. 14 overall (2019)
How did York’s 2021-22 hockey season go? Is his stock trending up or down from where it was entering the year?
Already headed into the season with a stock trending up, York was able to breakthrough with 30 NHL games under his belt following just a three-game cup of coffee in 2020-21. York makes strides down in the AHL with the Phantoms before finding a home in Philadelphia down the stretch, gaging valuable development time with the sinking ship that was the Flyers.
But what York did show was promise of a high upside puck moving defenseman capable of beating dogged forechecks with smooth first passes and skating ability to work out of trouble. York even logged some power play, showing off his puck moving skills in setting up three powerplay tallies downs the stretch as the Flyers hunted for just about anyone to help their man advantage.
Despite starting the season in Lehigh Valley and experiencing some growing pains at the NHL level, his stock was certainly trending up.
What are we expecting from York this season? What should we be looking for from him?
Well, for starters, we were certainly expecting York to figure into the opening night roster as a cheap depth option on the third defense pairing — but head coach John Tortorella had other ideas.
Tortorella is a respected bench boss and is no doubt giving the 21-year-old some tough love after an uneven camp and preseason from the Flyers’ top pick in 2019. Reading into Torts’ comments since news came of York’s demotion sounds like the veteran coach is expecting this to light a fire under the promising defender.
Despite the minor setback, York will play top pair minutes in Lehigh Valley and play all situations for coach Ian Laperriere. The tasking should help York’s long-term outlook as he’s stressed the details of defense and continues to round out his game before returning to the Flyers in the near future.
York will need to clean up some parts of his game and play with a higher sense of urgency with and away front the puck in order to take another step in his development — the coaching staff clearly saw something in that of a barrier to his game against his other camp competition.
Like nearly every Flyer, he’s got to be harder to play against or else he’s not going to play — it’s really been made that simple.
How does York fit into the Flyers’ long-term plans? Where does he stand in the Flyers’ organizational depth?
York still lives in a class of his won as the Flyers’ best defensive prospect — and it’s likely not all that close.
Egor Zamula also made this list, but doesn’t have close to the same puck skills as York and struggles to use his height to his advantage defending. York is already adept at using his stick when he’s overmatched physically, but can get too passive at times physically. Ronnie Attard is likely even a better spot offensively than York, but lacks advanced skating that York can bring to the table and is already on the older of the prospect scale.
Despite the demotion to start the season, York is already better than Nick Seeler — and probably Justin Braun — but will have to prove himself to the new coaching staff that has proven that hand outs aren’t in question…unless you fight a guy. This is still a very good NHL prospect and will likely be back in Philadelphia proving it before we know it.
What do we think York’s ultimate NHL upside is, and how likely is it that he gets to something approaching that?
Offensive upside, skating ability and general hockey sense have long been the draws of York in the Flyers’ system and those skills translate to defenders in today’s NHL. York certainly has the tools to develop into a top-four defender and a plus on the power play, and he’s probably closer to realizing that potential than his current roster status indicates.
In order to reach that level, though, York has to put in the time to refine his game in all three zones to earn the trust of a veteran coaching staff that is going to be around for a while and isn’t being lenient with just about anyone.
If the message gets through to York there’s a really good chance that he puts all the pieces together and ends the season in that role in some shape or form — the talent and the tools are there.