VOORHEES, N.J. – Cam York could not have been surprised by the decision but nonetheless had to be disappointed when he was handed a ticket back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday.
The young defenseman, a first-round pick (14th overall) of the Flyers in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, was one of 10 players cut from the roster, bringing the number of players on down to 34.
The NHL deadline for the final roster is Monday, 5 p.m.
When training camp opened, York looked like a pretty fair bet to secure one of six regular positions on the back line.
But his preseason performances were only so-so (coach John Tortorella called them “OK”) and the final verdict might have been made after York was beaten on a shorthanded one-on-one goal by the New York Islanders’ Casey Cizikas in Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss in the preseason finale at the Wells Fargo Center.
That said, Tortorella said he didn’t view the York move as a demotion.
In fact, he tried to portray it as a positive thing.
“We just feel it’s the best thing for him right now in his process,’’ Tortorella said during a press briefing at the Flyers Training Center. “I think sometimes when people are sent to the minor leagues, that you’re kind of throwing him away.
“I think it’s the perfect situation for him to go down there and play. It’s a great league to train in. He’s still a young man (21), defense is the toughest position to play. So to me, with a new coaching staff coming in, it’s part of the process for him with us in trying to get that end goal of being a player that we think he can be in the National Hockey League.’’
York, a native of Anaheim, California, has had two brief trials with the Flyers, including 30 games last season when he registered three goals/10 points with a minus-14.
Tortorella said he and York discussed the player’s potential throughout training camp.
“He has so many god-given abilities that other players don’t,’’ Tortorella said. “We want to try to get to it. I don’t think we got to it. And that’s part of my responsibility. I don’t think we got to the abilities where he could help us right now with our defensive core.
“For me, with York, it’s not the physical skills, it’s the mental skills. I think it’s him learning to be a guy who wants to make a difference and then being the player to make a difference. This isn’t bad. It’s the process of building a team. We feel he’s going to be a very important part of this team when we find our way. This is the right thing for York.’’
Tortorella stressed the need for mental toughness in an NHL player. As for his take on York: “I haven’t seen that.’’
Asked to define what York can do to improve in that area, Tortorella spelled it out.
“I don’t want to change his personality,’’ Tortorella said. “He seems like a pretty laid-back kid. I just would like him to change his personality on the ice. I want him to take control of games. I think he has the ability to make more of a difference. I want him to attack the game. Not banging people but using his legs to get us out of the end zone. I don’t want him just slapping the puck and getting rid of it.’’
With York out of the picture for the time being, the No. 6 spot would appear to be up for grabs. Right now, it might come down to either youngsters Ronnie Attard or Egor Zamula, if not journeyman Nick Seeler.
Attard’s stock rose, at least in Tortorella’s eyes, when he dropped the gloves with a much bigger Ross Johnston (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) on Tuesday night.
“I still think they (Attard, Zamula) need work,’’ Tortorella said. “But if you think I’m sending down Attard today after what he did last night, you’re out of your mind.’’
Also sent to the Phantoms was 2020 first-round pick (23rd overall) Tyson Foerster, a right wing with a lot of scoring potential.
“He had a good camp,’’ Tortorella said. “I really like him. We need skill. My message to him in our meeting today was it’s our job as coaches to teach him to play away from the puck but I don’t want to get in his way with his offensive part. We need to get him scoring down there.’’
Other players sent to the Phantoms included forward Olle Lycksell; defensemen Adam Ginning and Adam Karashik along with goaltender Pat Nagle.
General manager Chuck Fletcher also announced forwards Adam Brooks and Max Willman plus defenseman Louie Belpedio were place on waivers for the purpose of sending them to the Phantoms.
In addition, forward J.R. Avon has been assigned to Peterborough (OHL).