There was really nothing wrong with defenseman Cam York’s initial trial with the Flyers. It’s just that the team believed he could use more playing time with the Phantoms.
How much progress he made with the Lehigh Valley team will be on display shortly because the 21-year-old was called up from Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and is expected to play when the Flyers visit Florida on Thursday night.
Initially, York was brought back because the Flyers weren’t sure about the health status of veteran Kevin Connauton. But just before Wednesday morning’s practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J., Connauton was cleared to play again and will make the two-game trip through Florida and Carolina (Saturday).
Interim head coach Mike Yeo revealed the decision to call up York was made after Tuesday night’s hard fought 2-1 win over Vegas.
Clearly, York’s ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone played into the decision. In the Vegas game, goaltender Carter Hart faced a career-high 48 shots and practically had to stand on his head to stop 47 of them.
Yeo is concerned the Flyers’ defenseman aren’t executing sharply enough to his satisfaction, especially against skilled teams like the Golden Knights or the Panthers and Hurricanes on the upcoming trip.
“You’re playing against these good teams,’’ Yeo explained. “The importance of the ability to get out of your own end. You can’t just keep defending, defending, defending. With York, that should be his strength. We’ll see if he can provide that for us.’’
In 13 games with the Flyers, York compiled a goal and two assists with a minus-4. Since returning to Allentown on Feb. 4, he has a goal/four points with a minus-3.
“The game we want to play is speed,’’ Yeo said. “We want to get on the attack, we want to get to the offensive zone. Those things are all nice to say but playing fast isn’t just about skating fast, it’s far more important (to play the right way) in your execution. Get the puck cleanly out of your zone. If everything is a broken play, then you don’t have that ability to generate speed. He (York) has the ability to help us get to that game.’’
A number of people in the Flyers organization are hopeful York can one day develop into a No. 1-type defenseman in the Ivan Provorov mold.
“The other element is the ability to check back that puck quickly,’’ Yeo said. “That’s part of his game we felt was kind of improving. There’s opportunities to defend and there are opportunities to separate. That’s where we will continue to work with him.’’
>Non-stop trade chatter
Not a day goes by when a veteran isn’t asked about the NHL deadline, which is still about 10 days away.
Derick Brassard took his turn under the spotlight on Wednesday. Look at it this way: The better he plays since returning from injury, the more attractive trade target he becomes.
“I think it’s on everybody’s mind,’’ Brassard said. “For me personally, I signed here because I believed the Flyers were a team that could contend for the Cup. I haven’t talked to (GM) Chuck (Fletcher) or my agent about it yet, so we’ll see.’’
Regarding York and young players like him, Brassard alluded to his 42-game stretch with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch at the start of his pro career. He had been drafted No. 6 overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets but team management didn’t think he was ready to jump right into the NHL.
“For me, as a young player, I played in the American League for about 50 games,’’ he said. “I think it was really good for me. From your coaches and your teammates you can learn, that’s the main thing. We have a lot of guys with experience here, you can learn from some of those guys. I don’t think there’s an age where you don’t learn. You have to compete a little harder and show some character.’’