Philadelphia Flyers top prospect Cam York will get a chance to add to his already stellar sophomore season after his Michigan Wolverines received an at-large bid into the 2021 Frozen Four NCAA tournament. After finishing the season with a 15-10-1 record in the ultra-competitive BIG 10 Conference, the Wolverines enter the tournament as a two-seed. They will have a first-round matchup against three-seeded Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (14-10-2) and fellow Flyers’ prospect Noah Cates.
York has been a huge driver of the Wolverine’s success, tallying four goals and 16 assists for 20 points in 24 games played. That included two points (one goal, one assist) in two playoff games. York finished fifth in team scoring and first among defensemen. He also quarterbacked Michigan’s power play to a 26.0% clip, fifth in all of Division I.
Considering the age and physical maturity of college athletes, points are typically hard to come by in the NCAA as compared to junior hockey. The level of defensive play in college hockey is a tick below the difficulty of the AHL, so being at or near a point-per-game pace is an impressive feat. Even more so when it’s from a defenseman like York.
York’s also played an extremely disciplined brand of hockey taking only two penalties all season. Mind you, he played against the opposition’s top competition on a nightly basis on a team that allowed only 1.78 GAA.
Being able to limit goals-against whilst not putting yourself in the penalty box is an invaluable skillset for a defenseman. York does so with solid defensive positioning and an active stick.
He played big minutes in all situations, snuffed out the other team’s most dangerous players, kept himself out of the penalty box, and produced an impressive amount of offense. It’s no wonder that York was nominated for not one, but two end-of-season awards in the BIG 10.
He was nominated for both BIG 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, winning the latter over fellow top prospects Brock Faber (LA) and Ty Emberson (ARI). York was also named to the First Team All-BIG10 in a conference stocked with impressive young talent.
The fun doesn’t stop there either. York played a big role, not just for Michigan, but also for Team USA at this year’s World Junior Championship.
As the captain for Team USA, York produced one goal and five assists in seven games (second in scoring among defensemen) at the World Juniors, again just shy of a point-per-game; more importantly he led them to a gold medal over a stacked Team Canada that was expected to roll to an easy win. Team USA put on a defensive clinic pitching a shutout en route to a 2-0 victory in that gold-medal-winning game.
York seems ticketed for a quick transition into the NHL ranks; his game is very translatable as it’s built around his incredible poise, elite IQ, and crisp skating. His game isn’t especially flashy but he rarely, if ever, makes the wrong play. The play below is a great example of York using his IQ to manufacture a goal.
This goal came in Michigan’s quarterfinal matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes. York, as the third man in on the rush, recognizes that if things go awry he’ll have defensive help going back the other way and decides to crash the net.
Take note young players, York not only makes the correct read to activate deep, but he also stops at the net-front instead of peeling off. He’s immediately rewarded for his strong decision-making when his teammates shot attempt deflects off of him into the net giving the Wolverines a 2-0 lead.
He’s also great on the breakout where he can utilize a strong first-pass or his above-average mobility to skate the puck out of trouble. As he’s shown on the above play, he isn’t afraid to activate deep into the offensive zone when the situation arises. He’s even attempted, and finished, quite a few wraparound attempts this season. The fact that he is a natural leader is just an oversized cherry on top for the Flyers.
Michigan and Minnesota Duluth will drop the puck at 4 p.m on Friday, March 26th. York doesn’t have much more to add to his splendid college resume but you can be sure that he’d like to add a Frozen Four appearance and a National Championship to his mantle.
Whenever York’s season does come to a conclusion, expect the Flyers to push heavily to get him signed to his entry-level contract (ELC). Whether he signs or decides to stay another year at school, will be entirely up to York.
If York does indeed sign his ELC, he’ll join the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to start. If he excels early in his professional career though, there’s a real chance he earns a call up to the Flyers this season, especially if the defense continues to underwhelm.
Having York on the third pair could be a huge boost to the Flyers’ defensive group and would push one of Robert Hagg or Erik Gustafsson out of the lineup permanently. If he can continue his strong play at the next level he may add “play in the NHL” onto his lengthy list of accomplishments for the year.