VOORHEES, N.J. — When the Flyers traded veteran defenseman Justin Braun to the playoff-bound New York Rangers last March, perhaps the player saddest to see him go was promising prospect Cam York.
While the two had played only about a dozen games together last season, it was clear Braun’s presence helped fast-track York’s development.
Conversely, when York heard the Flyers had re-signed free agent Braun over the summer, there were smiles all around.
There’s a good chance new head coach John Tortorella will put this tandem back together as a third pairing again this season.
York couldn’t be happier.
“That’s really nice, having a friendly face and a veteran like him,’’ York said after Sunday’s camp session at the Flyers Training Center. “He’s played a bunch of big games, has been through it all pretty much. He’s a great person just to go to for anything off the ice, on the ice.
“He’s a great mentor for me.’’
Braun helped the Rangers get all the way to the Eastern Conference finals and solidified his reputation as a steady defense-minded performer.
He’s happy to be back for a second tour of duty with the Flyers, which will include assisting young guys such as York as he establishes himself as an NHL regular.
“Coming back here, I was interested as soon as I got traded (to the Rangers),’’ Braun said. “I really liked the group here. We have a good group. I think we’re going to be a lot more competitive this year.
“I was very impressed with him (York). He’s very confident with the puck, makes good outlet (passes). I was trying to get him to jump (into the play) a little bit more which at the end of the year he was doing. We just have to keep building on that. Not put yourself in a bad spot in the D zone. I think he’s been good.’’
Tortorella appreciates what the 35-year-old Braun brings to the table, especially in a teaching role.
“The biggest thing with ‘Brauner’ is if I’m a young player and I’m looking at the ‘try’ that he (Braun) has, it’s a great lesson for a player,’’ Tortorella said. “(To) just see how hard he works at everything. Certainly not the most gifted skater, not the most gifted passer, the most gifted shot but there are not too many people in this building that try as hard as he does.
“I think young guys should be looking at that. I think you become a player in the National Hockey League not just with skill but will. Certainly that guy has that.’’
York, a lefty shooter, spent a considerable amount of time on the right side when he played with another veteran, the now retired Keith Yandle.
Now he’s back on his natural left side, only it doesn’t feel completely natural just yet.
“It almost feels a little weird actually to be back on my normal side,’’ York said. “I’m happy to be there, that’s where I prefer to be. If I could be there all year, that would be best case scenario.’’
York, a 2019 first-round (14th overall) draft pick, made it clear this training camp has been like no other. Tortorella has been working his players’ butts off with demanding skating drills during each session.
“The first two days were probably the hardest skates of my entire life,’’ he said with a grin. “It’s physically and mentally demanding. It challenges your mental capacity. It’s tough and I’m sure it’s going to continue to be tough. I know these coaches are looking for guys who are going to stick with it. Continue to grind even when your body tells you not to.”
>Couturier somewhat optimistic
Some of the Flyers met with season ticketholders at the FTC on Sunday and one of the players was Sean Couturier.
Contrary to some media reports that Couturier’s back reinjury was cause for real concern, the veteran center somehat reputed that conjecture.
“It’s not as bad as what’s being put out there,’’ Couturier said.
Right now Couturier, who underwent back surgery back on Feb. 11 (and hasn’t played since), is listed as week-to-week. His chances of playing in the season opener on Oct. 13 are still probably iffy at best.