VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers traded down and selected standout defenseman Cam York with the No. 14 pick in the first round of the NHL draft Friday night at jam-packed Rogers Arena.
York, who starred on the U.S. National Team Development Program, was somewhat of a surprising pick because the Flyers bypassed highly touted forwards Cole Caufield and Peyton Krebs.
The University of Michigan-bound York (5-foot-11, 172 pounds) is quick and has great offensive upside, but his size might be a detriment against bigger forwards. He’s a terrific skater who led the U.S. team with a plus-40 rating.
“He’s a premier defenseman in this draft,” said Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr, who oversees the organization’s amateur-scouting department. “He’s an offensive guy, a terrific skater with a great pedigree. He had a very successful couple years with the U.S. program. Our guys felt when he needed to elevate his game he was extremely dynamic, and he has a chance to be a top-end NHL player.”
York, 18, a native of Anaheim, Calif., isn’t concerned that he’s too small to defend bigger, more physical players.
“I think the way the NHL is going, size doesn’t matter as much as it used to,” he said. “If you can move your feet and have skill, you can be successful.”
Flahr said the Flyers had York ranked in the draft’s top 10 and that he was the best available player left at No. 14.
“He’s very poised, very intelligent, smooth,” Flahr said. “He’s never in a hurry. He seems to have that ability to deal with pressure. He has offense, as I mentioned, but he’s a real solid defender for a player his size. He uses his stick extremely well.”
Flahr said the left-handed-shooting York was coached in minor hockey by former NHL defenseman Scott Niedermayer, a Hockey Hall of Famer, “and he’s a kid who is very confident in his abilities.”
York, the U.S. program’s No. 1 defender, wasn’t surprised that the Flyers selected him.
“I talked to them at the combine and talked to them a few days ago as well,” he said, “so I knew they were interested, and to hear them call my name was pretty special.”
The redheaded York, who had 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists) in 63 games, said he models his game after Toronto star Morgan Rielly.
“He’s somebody who’s not the biggest in physical stature, but he’s a good puck mover and can move his feet really well,” York said. “He plays hard in all situations.” (Rielly has bulked up, however, and is now listed at 6-1, 221.)
Just before their scheduled pick, the Flyers traded the No. 11 overall choice to Arizona for the No. 14 and No. 45 (second round) selections. At 11, Arizona took defenseman Victor Soderstrom, who had interested the Flyers.
“When we were sitting at 11, we still had three kids who were in our top 10 on the board,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Minnesota took left winger Matt Boldy at No. 12 and Florida selected goalie Spencer Knight at No. 13. That left the Flyers with a plethora of great choices, including right winger Caufield and center Krebs.
York is believed to be the player drafted the highest who grew up in southern California. When he was younger, York said, his father built a roller-hockey rink in his backyard, getting him interested in the sport.
He said he took extra pride in coming from a nontraditional hockey area. “It’s exciting. I want to promote the game as much as I can,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in my state.”
As expected, center Jack Hughes was selected by New Jersey with the No. 1 overall pick and big right winger Kaapo Kakko went No. 2 to the New York Rangers.
Hughes was one of seven players from the U.S. National Team Development Program chosen among the first 15 picks, including Caufield, who went to Montreal at No. 15 -- just after the Flyers took York. The 5-7, 163-pound Caufield was regarded as the draft’s best pure scorer.