When the Flyers signed veteran defenseman Keith Yandle last month, it seemingly pushed Cam York down the depth chart and made it likely the rookie will begin the season with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
York, 20, whom the Flyers picked 14th in the 2019 draft, said he didn’t take the Yandle signing personally when he spoke to reporters after the first day of development camp Monday in Voorhees.
“I still believe in myself. I think I can make the team still, but it’s a long year,” York said. “It’s 82 games and the schedule is really tight. There’s going to be a lot of guys coming in and out of the lineup. If you block a shot wrong, you’re out eight games. That’s eight games that people need to fill.
“I didn’t look at it like, ‘Dang, there goes my spot.’ I’m still confident. I still believe in myself.”
Rightfully so. After captaining Team USA to the World Junior title, he starred at the University of Michigan and, as a sophomore last season, was named the Big Ten’s top defenseman. York then was impressive in an eight-game stint with the Phantoms.
He also didn’t look out of place in three late-season games with the Flyers in May.
“Obviously, it’s a lot different game up there,” York said. “I think for me, just the thing that I noticed the most was probably the speed, the skill, and the size of the guys was just a little bit next level, a lot different than what I was used to. I felt I adapted pretty quickly and got used to it as time went on. Definitely at the start, it was rather eye-opening to see.”
York got stronger by working in the gym during the summer. The Flyers brass wanted him to add some muscle and be harder on players he faces and close gaps a lot quicker.
He will get a chance to show his stuff when rookie camp starts Sept. 15 and veteran camp on Sept. 22. Right now, he is mostly going through drills during development camp.
The 5-foot-11 1/2 York says he is now 185 pounds, up 11 pounds from last season.
“I don’t want to be 200 pounds right now,” he said. “I’m a smaller guy. My game is built off of speed and agility, so if I want those two components, I can’t be a certain big weight. I’m not trying to put on tons of weight, it’s more of just becoming strong and allowing my skill attributes to really kind of [excel] on the ice.”
There’s a chance York will be teammates at Lehigh Valley with 6-3, 177-pound Egor Zamula, a Russian who is another highly regarded young defenseman at development camp.
“He’s obviously a bigger guy. He’s got really good gap control and a big slap shot,” York said. “We’re actually roommates right now, which is kind of funny.”
The lanky Russian and the compact, red-headed California kid.
“He’s a great guy off the ice. Funny guy,” York said. “I’m trying to learn from him, just like he’s trying to learn from me. It’s a good culture. We’re starting to build a pretty good relationship here.”
Zamula’s English is improving.
“He can speak it, but it’s definitely not the most fluent,” York said. “Off the ice, we’re both pretty casual guys. On the ice, we kind of change that. I feel like we kind of put our game faces on and just go to work. I feel like we both kind of do things really well. There are certain things we’re both trying to get better at, and things we can kind of build off each other from.”
York plans to pick the brains of veterans like Yandle and Ryan Ellis during the main camp.
“Those guys have played a lot of games, a lot of important big games. They’ve seen it all,” York said. “ ... I’m going to learn from them as best as I can in, hopefully, the long amount of time that I have. I’m sure they’re great guys. I haven’t met them personally. It’s going to be a great environment to be around.”