Philadelphia Flyers top prospect Cam York made quite the impact in his NHL debut on Friday night. The 2019 first-round pick (14th overall) impressed and looked like he fit right in at the NHL level.
York signed his entry-level contract just over a month ago on March 31st. He made his AHL debut on April 21st and picked up his first three points on April 26th. This past Wednesday, York had two more points with a goal and an assist. He was settling in at the AHL level and earned a call-up.
York played a part in the Flyers’ 4-2 win against the Capitals on Friday night.
Cam York initially was on a pair with Samuel Morin in practice on Thursday. However, he was with Justin Braun for most of Friday night’s win.
It was a smart decision by Alain Vigneault, who said that he wanted a defensive-minded veteran to help complement York’s more offensive style. It made a lot of sense to let the rookie just play his game in his NHL debut.
Braun complemented York, and York complimented Braun.
“Having a veteran like him next to me is huge,” York said of Braun. “He’s a really good communicator letting me know what plays are to be made out there and he makes the game pretty easy for me. Having a veteran like that’s huge, especially in your first game.”
York and Braun played well together and it looked like the type of pair that should work.
York admitted that he had some nerves before the game.
“First shift, you got some shaky boots, but after that, they feel good,” York said. Once you get into the game, you’re in it and it’s just another hockey game. It was nice to get the first one out of the way.”
Cam York starts off strong
One of York’s best shifts came in the early stages of the first period.
To start, York gloved down a pass attempt and entered the offensive zone. He skated down the wall and, with nothing else available to him, just rimmed the puck around the boards.
Then, York pinched up the wall to keep the play alive. It led to a one-time chance for the Flyers from the circle.
Plays like those are ones you hope to see out of the offensive-minded York.
On his next shift, York batted another aerial pass down and got back in good position to slow down the Capitals’ attack.
It wasn’t anything extraordinary, but you could already tell that York was comfortable at the NHL level.
A few shifts later, York had a great end-to-end rush. He showed off his speed and stickhandling ability as he moved through the neutral zone.
The rookie looked poised in his first NHL game.
After being turned back in the neutral zone, York regrouped to calmly make the right play up the boards.
The Capitals had a great scoring chance with York on the ice later in the first period. York was positionally sound and had his stick extended, but Lars Eller was able to make a nice pass to an unmarked John Carlson.
That was one of the very few plays that York could’ve been better on in the first period.
The broadcast team at NBC Sports Philadelphia put together a great package of his strong first period.
York had an extremely impressive first period in his NHL debut.
“There’s no doubt that you can tell right from the beginning that the young man is a very good skater, smooth on his feet,” Alain Vigneault said after the game. “He had the ability tonight to beat the first forechecker and make a good pass.”
York played 7:03, all at 5-on-5, over the course of 12 shifts in the first period.
Cam York the power-play quarterback
One of the skills in York’s toolbox is the ability to quarterback a power play. He got his first chance with the Flyers early in the second period.
York didn’t look any different on the power play. He fit right in and made a few smooth passes. He even entered the zone with control and the top unit was almost immediately set up in the zone.
The Flyers didn’t score on the power play, but it was a good showing by York.
After getting a chance on the power play, York drew a penalty for another man advantage a few shifts later. He made a move to get Tom Wilson off-balance and Dmitry Orlov took a penalty as he sped by him as well.
York quarterbacked the power play again, but the Flyers didn’t score.
Later in the second period, York got a pass from Joel Farabee and exited the zone with speed. He passed the puck off the boards for Jakub Voracek, who fired a one-timer on net.
York isn’t afraid to join the rush as he showed there. In fact, he enjoys it. It’s one of the things that separates him from the rest of the pack.
He’s not a strictly offensive defenseman, however. York can hold his own on the defensive end.
He had good gap control and took out Nick Jensen along the boards later in the period.
Then, a few minutes later, York was forced to defend a two-on-one chance in close.
It was a good choice by York to take away the passing lane and let Elliott handle the shooter, Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway isn’t exactly a sniper, but he rang it off iron here.
Late in the period, York showed that he can use the glass to get the puck out of the zone as well. Coaches love that.
However, Nolan Patrick turned the puck over and the Capitals sent it back in deep. York was handcuffed by a pass and got bailed out in front by Patrick.
York played 7:04 (4:45 at 5-on-5, 2:19 on power play) over nine shifts in the second period.
Cam York stays consistent in the third
The third period wasn’t as flashy as the first two for York. There was a lot of back-and-forth play with a seven-minute span without a whistle.
It must’ve been in the Capitals’ game plan to use flip passes against the Flyers. York knocked down another one in the latter stages of the period.
York’s final shift of the game might’ve been his worst, statistically at least. He was on the ice for two prime scoring chances against.
The first one wasn’t really his fault, though. The Capitals passed through the neutral zone and Nicklas Backstrom split the Flyers for a great chance in front.
In the third period of a one-goal game, one of the forwards –– probably the center –– needs to take away that lane from Backstrom.
Later in the shift, an errant pass found a Capitals defenseman. He found Anthony Mantha in the slot, who redirected the puck wide.
York did have one final solid play in the third period. He calmly went into a battle in the corner, gave Daniel Sprong a little push, and dug the puck out from his skates.
York played 6:12 (all at 5-on-5) over the course of eight shifts in the third period. That gave him a total of 20:19 (18:00 at 5-on-5, 2:19 on the power play) in his first NHL game.
The 20:19 is the second-highest TOI for a Flyer in his NHL debut since tracking the stat began in 1997, ranking only behind Robert Hagg, who played 21:19 in his debut on April 9, 2017.
“The first of a long career” for Cam York
York looked poised and collected in his NHL debut. He’s made the jump from the NCAA to the AHL and now to the NHL in the past two months.
“I think the biggest difference is the guys are extremely strong and they can really skate and they can make plays,” York said of the NHL level. “It seems like even their fourth line felt like their first just because they’re making plays that you’re not really used to seeing. So, that’s a little bit of an adjustment for me, but it was just another hockey game. It was really fun to get out there and help the guys get a W.”
York was credited with one shot on goal, three shot attempts, a takeaway, and a blocked shot in the game. But the numbers don’t do it justice. York was impressive and looked like an NHL veteran in his debut.
Wade Allison, who also had an impressive debut this season and scored two goals on Friday, knows how good York is going to be.
“First off, congrats to him. This is the first of a long career,” Allison said of York’s debut. “This guy’s gonna play a lot of games, as you can tell from tonight, he’s a really special player.”
York was the sixth Flyers rookie to make their NHL debut this season. Giving York a look in the NHL this season was well-deserved for the player and it was also a shrewd move by the front office. It gave them a chance to truly see what the guy can do at the NHL level. Sure, it’s only one game, but York didn’t look lost at all.
The extremely small sample size won’t make a huge impact in evaluating York this summer, but it should give them a bit of confidence. York will be in the thick of the competition for a spot on the blue line next season and his debut was a terrific start.