Flyers

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

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.

Why?

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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Kevin Hayes earns Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award

Kevin Hayes earns Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award

At the beginning of Flyers training camp in September, Kevin Hayes said with a slight smile:

“I think the fans should be excited — I think they're excited, some of them might not be too excited — but I feel great, this is the best I've ever felt and probably the most in shape, most excited I've ever been in my hockey career."

With time, fans have gotten to know Hayes — the player and person.

And they've taken a liking to him.

Further proof of that came Monday as Hayes was named the recipient of the Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award, which is given to the Flyer who demonstrates the most "heart,” an honor voted on by members of the Philadelphia Flyers Fan Club. The club will make a $1,000 donation to a charity of Hayes’ choosing.

“I’m humbled that the fan club chose me to receive this award, especially considering all of our success has come from an entire team effort and the willingness to give everything we have to win,” Hayes said in a statement released by the Flyers. "This being my first year, I felt right at home from Day 1. I love this team, organization, fan base and city. It’s hard not to love playing at the Wells Fargo Center every night in front of the best fans in the league.”

With a mixture of lightheartedness and leadership, Hayes has won over his new teammates and fans during the first season of his seven-year, $50 million contract. At first, Hayes' style of play and past offensive production didn't scream excitement for fans when the 6-foot-5 center was acquired and signed in June 2019. However, Hayes provides winning qualities that don't always pop out at you — puck protection, disruptive size, defensive abilities and prowess on the penalty kill.

He has made those strengths clear in Year 1 with the Flyers. He was also on pace to break his career high of 25 goals (he finished with 23 in 69 games) before the coronavirus outbreak cut the 2019-20 regular season short.

“I think at the beginning, with the media and the fans, when you sign that deal, you want to come in and be on everybody’s good graces right away,” Hayes said in November. “When you’re not putting up points, it’s easy to think you’re not playing great hockey.”

Flyers fans are now on board with Hayes' hockey and heart.

The Flyers are handing out their annual team awards throughout this week. Below is the schedule:


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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Travis Konecny

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Travis Konecny

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Travis Konecny. 

Destra

The Flyers would have been a fraction of the team it was this season without Konecny. You can’t say enough good things about the player he’s becoming. Now, at the end of his fourth season with the Flyers, he’s finally found exactly where he belongs on this roster. 

No. 11 has always been the kind of player to get under the opposing team’s skin — luckily, he’s on the Flyers' side. There was a distinct shift in confidence throughout the 2019-20 season and it was noticeable in all aspects of his game. While it could have something to do with his shiny new six-year contract, he also had a fresh start with the new additions behind the bench. 

Konecny dressed for 66 games this season and posted a team best in points with 61 (24 goals, 37 assists). This is the third straight season he’s ended with 24 goals, but had play not been suspended because of the growing COVID-19 concerns, he would have most likely found himself with a new career high. 

A+ for Konecny — and expectations are most definitely going to be raised moving forward.  

Emmer

This one is an easy grade.

The 2019-20 season was hands down Konecny’s best of his career. He was showing a more confident style that we hadn’t seen before, making more risky plays with the puck, taking more chances and capitalizing — all of which was portrayed in his 61 points in 66 games, which led the team.

He also stepped up on the Flyers’ improved power play this season, recording five goals and 18 assists on the man advantage. He was a spark plug — he consistently brought energy to the bench and to the game, especially when he made it on the score sheet.

His confident play landed him his first All-Star selection and his improved shooting percentage was a major key to the Flyers' offense.

A for Konecny.

Fordyce 

Konecny is an easy grade for me — it’s an obvious A. When Konecny is playing well, it’s infectious and has an effect on the entire team. The energy and spark that No. 11 plays with on a nightly basis is one of the most valuable parts of T.K.'s game.

This was a big growth season for Konecny, too, as he played a more disciplined game and shed some of the bad habits which had cost him and the Flyers in previous seasons with penalties and so forth. That can’t be understated. 

Now let's look at the numbers. In 66 games this season, Konecny equaled his career high in goals and if it were a normal season, it’s a virtual lock that he would have a new career high. Konecny’s 61 points were a career high and while he maintained his status as a scoring threat, he became more of a playmaker, dishing out a career-high 37 assists, 12 more than his previous high. 

This is certainly a player the Flyers will rely on in the future and this season was a huge leap. 

A for Konecny. 

Hall

On the heels of signing a new six-year, $33 million deal, Konecny had six three-point performances in 2019-20 after having a combined two over his first three NHL seasons.

That's big-time growth from a 23-year-old foundation piece.

Konecny led the Flyers in goals (24) and points (61) through 66 games. His 37 assists were a career high and he was one marker away from a new personal best.

The Flyers went 31-9-2 when he recorded at least a point and 10-9-5 when he had gone scoreless.

Konecny deserves an A for taking huge strides and backing up his contract.

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