The trade that sent Justin Braun from the Flyers to the New York Rangers for a third-round 2023 draft pick seemed like it happened so fast that Cam York was caught off guard.
Braun partnered the young defenseman in his Flyers season debut and then played with him for five of his first six games. Since the moment York entered the Flyers locker room, he said Braun was good to him and eased his way. Braun felt like “my dad, almost,” York told the Inquirer in January.
When the Flyers traded Braun on March 21, York didn’t even get to say goodbye.
“It’s just weird,” York said. “As a young guy, I mean, in college, obviously, there’s no trades or anything like that. So having a teammate, a D-partner that gets traded, it’s definitely a little weird for me.”
Braun’s absence has been felt both on the ice, as well as in the locker room. Interim coach Mike Yeo described him as a “prepared, motivated, and just a real great, class act and team guy.” He was a veteran player with many types of experiences under his belt.
“He’s seen a lot,” York said. “I think we definitely miss his voice.”
Braun partnered Ivan Provorov on the top line for much of the season and was one of the steadiest presences on the blue line. Yeo said he was someone who would willingly block every shot or take any hit to make a play. York admired his “elite stick” and his ability to shut down top players night in and night out.
York has since stepped into the top pairing, and Braun’s influence has lived on through York’s play. As a young guy who watched Braun closely for the past year, York drew from Braun’s game. He’s not alone. York said other guys in the room have watched and listened to Braun.
York got to share his best wishes with Braun when he saw him Sunday before the Flyers-Rangers game, but it was strange for him to see Braun in red, white, and blue rather than orange and black. Braun has only played in one of the Rangers’ six games since he was traded. However, he will be back in the lineup for the Rangers against the Flyers. Once the puck drops, all the sentiment will disappear for 60 minutes, and York is “definitely not going to be so friendly with him.”
Late in Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nick Seeler made a hard hit and fell awkwardly against the boards. He returned briefly and then immediately left for the locker room. Then, Zack MacEwen dropped the gloves with Wayne Simmonds. He also went straight to the locker room, and Yeo reported Sunday MacEwen was injured in the fight.
Kevin Connauton will come in for Seeler rather than Keith Yandle. Yeo said Connauton has been working hard but hasn’t had much of an opportunity. He also added that Yandle has had an emotional few days with his iron man streak ending.
Hayden Hodgson returned to the lineup with MacEwen out, but instead of slotting him in for MacEwen on the fourth line, Yeo decided to shuffle things around. He placed Hodgson on a line with Noah Cates and Morgan Frost, breaking up the Owen Tippett-Frost duo. Although Tippett and Frost have shown chemistry, they have not been producing.
Yeo said it creates “kind of a young guy line,” and Cates said he’s excited for it.
“Definitely some skill with Frosty there and I think Hayden plays pretty hard and pretty physical,” Cates said. “Kind of little different game. But I think I can complement both of them well.”
Oskar Lindblom moves down from the first line to MacEwen’s spot on the fourth line. Yeo said it is not a demotion. He thinks Lindblom can help out with the “checking line.”
The Flyers play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday at 7 p.m. ... Yeo said he thought Nate Thompson looked better and better as Saturday’s game progressed. It was his first game back from injury, and Yeo thought he provided momentum. ... After getting his NHL debut out of the way, Ronnie Attard seemed to have a good understanding of the next steps he needs to take, Yeo said. Cates, who will be living with Attard and played against him through college, said he’s excited to see what Attard will bring as he adapts to the NHL level.