Ivan Provorov’s trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets left more questions than answers for the Philadelphia Flyers’ defense, but Cam York is ready to answer the call.
Cam York‘s 2022-23 season started out as every young player’s worst nightmare. York failed to impress head coach John Tortorella enough to crack the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening night roster, and was instead sent down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL. After posting 13 points in 20 games with the Phantoms, York worked his way back into the good graces of Tortorella. The Anaheim, California native returned to Philadelphia on December 8, and would spend his next 54 games with the big club.
During exit interviews, Cam York was asked how he felt he responded to Tortorella’s demands of him being more aggressive at both ends of the ice. After a short, heavy breath, York offered “Yeah, I mean that’s something I try to do every game. Obviously, some games it doesn’t work out, you know, I hear about it,” pausing mid-thought to laugh at the idea of Tortorella barking at him. “Like [Tortorella] said, he’s on me often about it and it’s something that I try to bring every game. Obviously sometimes it doesn’t go my way, or I’ll make a mistake or a turnover and it doesn’t end up well, but it’s something when I feel like I’m playing my best I am really aggressive and I think he sees that too”.
Despite Cam York’s hard work, he wasn’t trusted enough just yet to be the Flyers’ top dog on the first defense pairing. York spent much of his time in Philadelphia this past season playing alongside the departed Ivan Provorov, playing on his off-hand side on the right with Provorov commanding the left. The results were, unsurprisingly, really bad. In 548:25 together at 5-on-5, York and Provorov were out-shot 520 to 451 and out-scored 27 to 18. In addition to that, their goals-for percentage of 40.0% was a whopping 10% lower than their expected-goals-for percentage of 50.55%. Lastly, with the two on the ice, the Flyers scored just one more high-danger goal than their opponents, and were equal with their opponents in high-danger chances created.
With a longer leash and separation from Provorov, Cam York flourished. Without Provorov alongside him, York out-scored his opponents 20 to 11, out-shot opponents 340 to 316, and dominated high-danger chances, allowing just 61 and creating 87. The Flyers’ goalies’ on-ice save percentage soared to a whopping 0.936 with York and without Provorov, and cratered to 0.902 with Provorov and without York. The numbers don’t lie: York had a far greater impact on his teammates’ performances on the ice than Provorov. York’s performances indicate that he can, and will, become the NHL’s next superstar defenseman. With York’s true breakout season on the horizon, it was absolutely the right decision to offload the volatile Russian defenseman.
When asked about his time playing on the right side of the defense, York said “I think I’ve played more games on the right side now than on the left; I don’t really know what the left side is like anymore,” cracking a smile. “I definitely feel more comfortable [than before]. There’s definitely things I struggle with on the right side still, but, from where I was at the beginning of last year to where I am now I feel like I’ve come a long way”. York’s flexibility certainly played a part in his insertion to the Flyers’ lineup full-time, and may be something the Flyers keep in mind for the future. In any case, they’ll eventually need to find a suitable, legitimate, NHL-caliber defenseman to pair with their young star.
Looking ahead to next season, York is planning to stay around the facility this summer and continue to work. “I’ll be around this summer. I don’t think for as long [as last year] but I will be here. Again, I felt like I came in in really good shape. 195 – that was the most I’ve ever weighed in my life, and Dan [Warnke] and DeRick [O’Connell] do a great job here. I think they can really help my game off the ice and that’s something I definitely need to focus on this summer again – continue to have a big summer and get ready for next year”.
The Philadelphia Flyers are poised to take the next step in their rebuild in the 2023-24 season, and their efforts will be led by future star Cam York.