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Cam York uncorked

The Flyers’ second-year defenseman showing signs of promise

Philadelphia Flyers v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

There have been a couple of positives to take away from what feels like a go-nowhere season.

Selfishly, it’s a lot easier to get really good seats and not regret it when I tap MAC.

I went to the Kings game a couple weeks ago and sat 12 rows off the ice. The sport is different from that angle. My wife definitely noticed, observing how much faster the game was compared to my beer league.

Maybe this isn’t a positive.

Anyway, you feel like you’re in the middle of the action. When a third man trailing the play accelerates up ice to create an odd-man rush it seems to come out of nowhere. The defenseman who covers halfway across the zone to keep a puck at the offensive blue line looks like he might as well be a pterodactyl. You feel the suddenness of the quick shimmy that breaks down a forechecker and creates an easy path out of the defensive zone.

Come to think of it, I think I just got an up-close look at how good Cam York might be.

York has been another, more important, positive this season.

The stats love York.

If you’re into the fancy ones, he leads the Flyers with 53.26 percent expected goals rate and is second with a 49.68 percent Corsi per Natural Stat Trick. If you’re not, the team was 9-13-5 when York made his season debut December 9 and have gone 12-9-4 since. Oh, and he’s scored eight of his 11 points at 5-on-5, the most among Flyers defensemen since his call-up. By Corsi and expected goals, every defensemen who has played more than 40 minutes with York has performed better with him than away from him.

York could represent a reason to believe in the organization.

While York was a first-round pick, he’s had his share of critics. He played on a loaded USNTDP team in his draft year. That group included Cole Caufield, the sniper many fans wanted and expected when the Flyers were on the clock. In the ensuing years, there were questions about York’s California cool. He played with a lax pace and made safe decisions that didn’t show off the elite skills of a top prospect.

York had a solid rookie season last year. He posted 10 points in 30 games and had positive Corsi and expected goal numbers relative to his teammates. If nothing else, York seemed competent and he was expected to be in the lineup on opening night this year.

If you’re reading this site, you probably know the story by now. John Tortorella was underwhelmed with York’s passive play. He went to the AHL for about two months and came back a different player. His scoring is up and he’s had a greater impact on the ice.

This is the most important positive this season. Tortorella has preached process and patience since training camp. Noah Cates has held his own as a rookie, Owen Tippett has taken strides, and even Rasmus Ristolainen has done some good things. There are already a number of success stories. But York could embody the team’s emphasis on player development. He came into the year as a potential top-four defenseman and is now justifying some dreams he could play on a top pair 25 games into his sophomore campaign. This is the kind of progress that makes one optimistic that the coaching staff might know what it’s doing.

The next time I’m within spitting distance of the ice, York won’t surprise me. But if he’s the first of a number of player development success stories, those tickets won’t be so cheap.