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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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Flyers roster cuts: Notable hopefuls remain in busy competition

Flyers roster cuts: Notable hopefuls remain in busy competition

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers made a hefty round of cuts a little earlier than anticipated.

They changed their preseason plan Friday morning as head coach Alain Vigneault and the front office decided this was the best course of action in preparation for the Oct. 4 season opener (see story).

The Flyers trimmed the roster by 18 players.

Tyler Wotherspoon, Nate Prosser, T.J. Brennan, Kyle Criscuolo and Reece Willcox will be placed on waivers Saturday. If they clear, they'll report to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Felix Sandstrom, Cal O'Reilly, Greg Carey, Maksim Sushko, Kirill Ustimenko, Gerry Fitzgerald, David Drake, David Kase, Pascal Laberge, Isaac Ratcliffe, Matthew Strome, Rob Michel and Josh Couturier were assigned to Lehigh Valley.

None of the cuts are surprising. Sushko performed well in camp and is entering his first season with the Phantoms. Ratcliffe had an outside shot at winning a roster spot with the Flyers but it became clear throughout camp and the preseason that the 6-foot-6 winger needed development in the AHL. Felix Sandstrom is a promising goalie prospect. David Kase and Pascal Laberge will be forwards to watch, as well.

O'Reilly, 32, was a point-per-game player last season in the AHL and will be one of Lehigh Valley's best players, along with Greg Carey.

The competition for the Flyers' bottom six and defensive pairings heats up Saturday with the team's fourth preseason game out of seven. Nobody has knocked the door down (see story).

The Flyers' roster is at 36 players.

Forwards

Andy Andreoff
Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Connor Bunnaman
Sean Couturier
Joel Farabee
Morgan Frost
Kurtis Gabriel (injured)
Claude Giroux
Kevin Hayes
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Oskar Lindblom
Nolan Patrick (injured)
Tyler Pitlick (injured)
Michael Raffl
German Rubtsov
Chris Stewart
Carsen Twarynski
James van Riemsdyk
Jakub Voracek
Mikhail Vorobyev

Defense

Chris Bigras
Justin Braun
Mark Friedman
Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg
Samuel Morin
Philippe Myers
Matt Niskanen
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim
Andy Welinski (injured)

Goalies

Jean-Francois Berube
Brian Elliott
Carter Hart
Alex Lyon

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Change in plan shows Alain Vigneault isn't messing around with Flyers

Change in plan shows Alain Vigneault isn't messing around with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Alain Vigneault knows how to massage a message. He coached in Montreal, Vancouver and New York; this is not his first rodeo.

When he spoke Friday about suddenly changing the Flyers' preseason plan to ramp up the preparation and concepts for the veteran players, he chose his words wisely.

But make no mistake: Vigneault can't be thrilled with the progress.

"It has nothing to do with the outcomes, it has everything to do with the process," the Flyers' head coach said. "For me, the process needs to accelerate at this time — and that's what I intend to do."

The Flyers were ready to play a mixed group of NHLers — about nine players that would likely make the team — and prospects to compete in Saturday's exhibition game against the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center. Instead, following a lackluster 3-1 preseason loss to the Bruins' B-squad Thursday, Vigneault met with general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr Friday morning about adjusting the approach. With four exhibition games remaining, the Flyers will expedite cuts to focus on whittling down the roster and increasing the reps for the main players ahead of the season opener.

"Between the 25 and the 30 players that I feel right now have the best chance of maybe making this team," Vigneault said. "Instead of waiting until Monday, Tuesday's practice, we're going to be at that number [Saturday]."

Is it a startling change? If anything, it's proactive. The Flyers have missed the playoffs in four of the last seven seasons and haven't won a series since 2012. They've notoriously started slow in recent history. Last season, the team was in last place of the Metropolitan Division at Thanksgiving for the second straight year.

It cost people jobs and, ultimately, it's why Vigneault is in place.

After looking at the last couple of days, I feel that this is a different situation than I've been used to in the past. I've been used to coming to camp in the past and my teams have been in the playoffs. Usually I give the veteran players three of the six or seven games that we play. I feel at this time, our veteran players need more games that I originally planned. I'm going from the three that I planned to four and some might even get five out of the seven. 

I'm going on the amount of teaching that we're doing, there's a lot there, there's a lot to be assimilated by the players. I'm going by what I'm seeing about the players' performance, how they're executing, and I just feel at this time we need to make a change and that's what we're doing.

- Vigneault

In 16 NHL seasons as a head coach, Vigneault has 11 playoff berths. Eight of those teams advanced past the first round, three won the Presidents' Trophy and two went to the Stanley Cup Final. He has impressive results in Year 1 on the job (see story).

"When you're in the playoffs and you go for a round, two rounds, three rounds, four rounds, that's intense hockey, that's a longer season," Vigneault said. "This group has been off for a while and, in my mind, it just needs a little bit more preparation. There's nothing better than game situation, where games are on the line.

"With a new staff coming in and everything that we need to touch on, I need to get these guys into more games. So what we've decided to do is just accelerate the process."

Does Vigneault's track record allow him to make this change and have it stick with the players?

"They don't have a choice," Vigneault said. "That's just the way it is."

Oct. 4 is nearing and a new system from a new staff is expected to spearhead a jump back into contention for the Flyers.

"Once you get down to one group, the internal competition gets a little bit better also," Vigneault said. "That's what we need to do here, we need to get down to one group to have everybody in the same room, at the same time, and make sure that they're grasping the concepts that we're trying to apply. 

"I'm very confident that this will be better for the group."

How the Flyers start the season will provide the true answer.

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