After seven years of drafting the next potential star after potential star, only to be disappointed time and time again, the Flyers have very few polarizing players left in their pipeline. Though there is one. 20-year-old 2019 14th overall pick Cam York is on the cusp of earning an NHL roster spot, but his path to the show isn’t an easy one.
Head coach Alain Vigneault has plenty of new toys to play with entering the 2021-22 season, especially on defense, and rookie Cam York may got lost in the initial shuffle while the coach figures out what he’s working with. It’s not so much a knock on York as it is a team desperate for real change evaluating the new pieces on the roster.
There are a couple roadblocks keeping Cam York from undisputedly locking down a roster spot out of camp, mainly Travis Sanheim and the recently-signed Keith Yandle, both of which are clogging up the available left defense spots on the team.
Keith Yandle, the 16-year NHL veteran, signed a one year deal with the Flyers during the offseason. What makes him different than any other veteran defenseman? Well he is currently on a 922-game ironman streak and is just 43 games shy of breaking the all-time record. Assumedly, he didn’t sign with the Flyers with the anticipation of sitting in the press box all season. Game 43 would occur on January 18, 2022 in Philly when they take on the Red Wings. January 18 would be 35 games into the AHL season, plenty of time for York to get his legs back under him and dazzle with his play. Once that Yandle record is reached there would be no reason to play him every night, unless he somehow got his play back to an acceptable all-around level.
Why not say be-damned to Yandle’s streak for the sole purpose of giving York a roster spot out of the gate? Well it comes down to ice time. At his point in his career, with just 11 professional games under his belt, is York best served on the third pair in the NHL or the top pair in the AHL? The Phantoms’ roster is actually shaking out to be pretty decent this season and it won’t be a damning sentence to send York down to hone his craft for a few months. Letting a player develop more has never hurt, calling up a player too early has.
And then there’s Travis Sanheim, who, in a perfect world, is a taller version of the same player. Sanheim has struggled to live up to his potential and, as of this writing, is currently embroiled in a contract dispute with the Flyers, who elected to take him to arbitration. While that doesn’t happen for another couple weeks, the end result, one way or another is he will be back on the Flyers for at least 2021-22. It could very well be his last opportunity to lock down the second pair left defense spot, as Cam York will be breathing down his neck if he doesn’t perform as the apparent heir to the throne.
It is totally possible that York does indeed blow the doors off out of camp and gives the coaching staff a hard choice to make in terms of who gets an NHL gig. But the Flyers don’t have to rush him if they don’t want to. The team should be all-in on a win-now approach and, even though York is very talented, there isn’t much time to learn on the fly. Letting him season at least a little bit in the AHL so his product in much more crisp when he gets the call may be the better way to go. If the Flyers start York in the AHL, let Yandle get his record, then call him up to play on the third pair, and eventually overtakes Sanheim for the second pair role, it’s about as perfect a season as York could have.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: espn.com