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Anaheim Hills native, Jr. Ducks grad York making strides in first season with U.S. NTDP

 

USA NTDP U17 vs Chicago Steel

His first season in the prestigious U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) has been everything Cam York had hoped for.

The defenseman from Anaheim Hills has gotten off to a solid start with the NTDP’s Under-17 team, helping Team USA win the U17 World Challenge in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, in November. The Americans swept their seven games against the top 2001 birth year teams in the world.

“That was a nice experience, to be able to play against the best players from my age group was an honor,” said York, a longtime Anaheim Jr. Ducks player. “The World Challenge was super fun, especially to come out on top.”

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York became the first Jr. Duck to reach the NTDP, and he said his learning curve has steepened since he arrived in Plymouth, Mich.

“It’s hard, but it’s also a great experience,” he said. “I feel like I’ve cleaned up a bunch of stuff in my defensive game. The main thing was my gap control, taking on a 3-on-2 or something like that. I’ve gotten a lot better at that.

“The coaching staff has shown a lot of trust – they’re playing me in pretty much every situation.”

Not only does the U-17 team play a United States Hockey League-heavy schedule, but the program practices present another challenge, York said.

“My teammates are awesome,” he said. “On the ice, they’re all so good. There’s no easy player to go up against. The competition for playing time is unreal.

“Off the ice, they’re all super nice. And we’re all in the same boat; we know it’s hard to be away from family.”

York spent the past two seasons playing at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep in Minnesota, so he had a bit of a head start in that regard. Still, there has been no shortage of adjustments.

The NTDP has a demanding daily schedule, and York said a typical day begins at 6 a.m., includes going to school from 7 a.m. until noon, then dedicating five hours to hockey, off-ice training, video and team building. The team lifts weights twice a week and periodically participates in combat exercises with a military veteran. After dinner, it’s time for homework.

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“I didn’t think it was going to be as strict as it is,” said York, who has committed to NCAA Division I Boston College. “You’ve got to be almost perfect. It’s helped me a lot as a person tidy up some things off the ice.”

On the ice, York had 12 points, including three goals, in his first 20 games. The point total was second among defensemen on the team. But there is much more to the 5-foot-11, 160-pound York’s game than just points, said one of his former youth coaches.

“Cam has always been a phenomenal hockey player,” said Craig Johnson, his 2001 team coach and the Jr. Ducks’ director of coaches. “You could always see he would be a great player.

“He sees the ice very well and his ability to defend is very good. He transitions pucks well and keeps things simple and in the right place. He’s a good decision maker.”

York relished his time with the Jr. Ducks playing for Johnson and Scott Niedermayer.

“Craig and Scott have had a huge impact on me and still do today,” York said. “I enjoy keeping in touch with those two.”

York, who is eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, got another taste of what he’s up against when he skated with a group of 2000 birth year players eligible for the 2018 draft at a CAA camp this past summer.

“It was cool to go up against future draft picks and see how you measure up,” he said.

Some day in the not-too-distant future, it’s likely other players will be saying that about York.

Photos/Rena Laverty/USA Hockey

— Chris Bayee

(Jan. 20, 2018)