Why Flyers picked Cam York over Cole Caufield in 2019 NHL draft


Cole Caufield was there.

His polarizing 5-foot-7 frame, his eye-popping 72 goals and his century-mark production.

The Flyers didn't take him.


Because they liked Cam York. They did their homework on the U.S. defenseman. The Flyers went into the 2019 NHL draft Friday night with goals of restocking the organizational cupboard along the blue line. Assistant general manager Brent Flahr said last week that the Flyers had a few defensemen on their top-10 list.

York turned out to be their guy after trading back to No. 14 (see story). Flahr said the Flyers' entire scouting staff had probably watched York 10 to 15 times during the season.

"His whole team was well-scouted, that's for sure," Flahr said Friday night via a conference call.

That means the Flyers had seen a lot of Caufield, who was teammates with York on the loaded U.S. national U-18 team. It's not that the Flyers didn't like Caufield, but they clearly weren't as high on the diminutive winger as they were on York.

Thirteen other teams passed on Caufield, who was taken by the Canadiens at No. 15 overall. Many draft experts ranked Caufield as a top-10 talent, and some even placed the goal-scoring machine among the top-five players in the draft.

"He's a player we knew very well, we spent some time with him again here," Flahr said. "He's going to be a good player, so when we traded back, we were confident there were a couple players there, that we were guaranteed to get one of them. It's just kind of the way it worked.

"I think this kid is going to beat the odds. He checked a lot of boxes. He's obviously small, he's been small his whole life, but he's had nothing but success. He's a great kid and if we ended up with him, we would have been happy, as well. 

"We got a guy that we think will be a very good player for a long time."

York is a point-producing defenseman with an impressive skill set. He's a constant threat with the puck on his stick and thrives when joining the rush. The Michigan-bound lefty shot scored over a point per game in 2018-19 with 65 points, a USNTDP single-season record for a defenseman, while maintaining a plus-56 rating.

"He's kind of a modern defenseman," Flahr said. "He's very mobile, very intelligent, very cerebral. Lots of poise, plays a real responsible two-way game, he's a very good defender for a 6-footer. With his mobility and ability to move the puck and the offensive dimension, he checks a lot of boxes. He'll need some time to get stronger and fill out like any young player, but he's a guy that has tremendous upside."

The Flyers undoubtedly need more defensemen in the farm system with many of their prospects having graduated to the NHL. At forward, the Flyers have much better depth, headlined by Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Isaac Ratcliffe.

York is a good option to help build back up the group of blueliners (see Flyers' draft recap).

"He's put up big numbers offensively," Flahr said. "He's a talented guy and projects to be a very good defenseman for a long time.

"I think if you asked him, he would want to turn pro tomorrow. He's going to a good program at Michigan, we'll take it year by year. I don't see him as a four-year guy, let's put it that way."

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