York blossoms into an essential Flyers’ building block

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Flyers' Cam York
BRIDGEPORT, CT – OCTOBER 05: Philadelphia Flyers Defenseman Cam York (45) looks to pass the puck during the second period of the pre-season National Hockey League game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders on October 5,2021, at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Cam York earned his flowers from John Tortorella.

Recalled on the previous road trip to cover Tony DeAngelo, York made his 2022-2023 debut against the Vegas Golden Knights. DeAngelo stepped away from hockey briefly before returning to the ice at the Wells Fargo Center versus the New York Rangers. When recalled, York was playing for a permanent role with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Ahead of the 2022-2023 season, York was a surprising cut from the opening night roster. He didn’t stand out in training camp, according to Tortorella. It wasn’t encouraging at the surface, understanding the top defensive prospect in the Flyers’ system wasn’t ready for the NHL jump. Tortorella was transparent about York evolving his game in the AHL. He needed to see a sense of urgency, mixing a mean streak with his offensive instincts.

In an overtime loss to the Golden Knights, York showed glimpses of his evolution. He didn’t stray away from his game, remaining true to himself. Slowly, he mixed in a more urgent, physical game to match his finesse. Against the Colorado Avalanche, York began to find his groove.

York seems to of graduated from finding his NHL role. Tortorella is beginning to dress his defense around the young defensive playmaker.

A playmaker is what York is vastly becoming since his recall. He quarterbacks the second powerplay unit, the role DeAngelo assumes on the first unit. York and DeAngelo pop as the blue-line commanders of the extra-man advantage because of their puck movement:

“I’m always on my toes, trying to push the pace of the game, break out the puck; try and be really detailed in my game. I feel like I’ve had it lately and I just want to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Cam York; 12/13/2022

In six games, York tallied four points (1G, 3A) in response to the message Tortorella sent after training camp. The intention behind cutting York was less about him not being ready for the NHL pace and more about Tortorella daring York to be the game-changer he is instead of a safe defenseman who didn’t stand out. Tortorella wanted York to take a few chances with calculated risk. Understanding that balance results in quality situational hockey.

Along with his offensive production, York (+5, 7HIT, 2GV, 56.7%CF) is defensively responsible.

What does it all mean? In short, it was the right decision to keep York in the AHL to begin the 2022-2023 season. He did work on his game, sharpening his loose ends to fit the build Tortorella envisions. As the season continues, Philadelphia needs to regain roster clarity. York isn’t just a part of the defense; he’s making a difference on the ice.

“I’ve seen players get better each game. I’ve seen our back end get better. Cam York, [the] minor leagues worked. That whole situation you guys were pissing and moaning about when we sent him down worked. Cam comes up and is trying to make a difference.”

John Tortorella; 12/20/2022

To everyone, Tortorella was crazy like a fox for sending York to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Nick Seeler and Egor Zamula, two starters on the opening night roster, aren’t dressing in Toronto.

Slowly, the question is becoming, ‘who will pair with York?’ Tortorella still has defensemen he wants to develop and is open about it. Braun will lineup alongside York today. Seeler is compiling a quality season and makes for a solid seventh defenseman. Eventually, York could pair with Zamula.

Consider that. Pairing two prospects together on the third pair gives the freedom to trade Braun at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. The Flyers are hoping to become cheaper defensively while developing future assets. Veterans like Braun and Seeler aren’t a part of the long build, though they’re helpful now.

York represents one of the few silver linings as Philadelphia marches onward in its journey with Tortorella.

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)