VOORHEES, N.J. – All six defensemen projected to start for the Flyers this season have extensive NHL experience.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t hear someone knocking on the door.
That would be 2019 first-round draft pick Cam York, who showed plenty of promise in a three-game trial at the end of last season.
York probably will start the season with the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms but if there are any injuries or sub-par play among the half-dozen veterans, York can probably drive down the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Allentown to Philly in less than two hours.
The Flyers went out and got Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle in the offseason to complement Ivan Provorov, Justin Braun and Travis Sanheim.
They’re likely to carry a seventh backliner for depth and that spot could come down to either York or Sam Morin.
York has faith he can win that competition.
“I still believe in myself,’’ York said during development camp at the Skate Zone. “I think I can make the team still. It’s a long year. It’s 82 games and the schedule is really tight. There’s going to be a lot of guys coming in and out of the lineup. If you block a shot wrong, you’re out eight games. That’s eight games that people need to fill. I didn’t look at it (the acquisition of veterans) like ‘Dang, there goes my spot.’ I’m still confident.’’
No doubt that three-game audition helped coach Alain Vigneault get better acquainted with York’s talent.
“Obviously, it’s a lot different game up here,’’ York said. “I think for me, the thing that I noticed the most was probably just the speed, the skill and the size of the guys was just a little bit next level, a lot different than what I was used to. I felt like I adapted pretty quickly and got used to it as time went on. Definitely at the start, it was rather eye-opening to see.’’
Some people might look at York’s size (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) and wonder if he’s big enough to handle some of those beefy forwards.
Lack of size didn’t seem to hurt Mark Howe or Kimmo Timonen.
Still, the Flyers wanted York to work on his size and strength over the summer.
“For me, I think the biggest point was obviously to physically grow and put a lot of work in the gym,’’ York said. “I felt like I did a really good job of that this past offseason. Secondly, just defensively, like being harder on guys, closing gaps a lot quicker. Things like that. I think they were the main focal points for me.’’
Besides, York relies on his speed and skill to keep opponents at bay. He doesn’t need to be lugging extra pounds around.
“I feel like I get asked about that a lot,’’ York said. “I’m not trying to just put on weight. I don’t want to be 200 pounds right now. I’m a smaller guy. My game is built off of speed and agility, so if I want those two components, I can’t be a certain big weight. I’m not trying to put on tons of weight, it’s more of just becoming strong and allowing my skill attributes to really kind of fluctuate on the ice.’’
When training camp opens in late September, York will get a chance to not only compete against veterans but also get information from them as well. That can be invaluable.
“Those guys have played a lot of games, a lot of important big games,’’ York said. “They’ve seen it all. I’m going to pick their brains. I’m going to learn from them as best as I can in hopefully, the long amount of time that I have. I’m sure they’re great guys. I haven’t met them personally. It’s going to be a great environment to be around. Like I said, those guys have seen a lot and are very good players. I’m really excited to get to play alongside those guys and hopefully learn a lot of good stuff from them.’’