York learned lessons well, will carry them to U.S. NTDP
When Cam York was a little boy, he watched countless Anaheim Ducks games at Honda Center and on television, and he was always drawn to Scott Niedermayer.
York was in good company.
The Hall of Fame defenseman had a rare combination of skating, skill and hockey intelligence, and he was a key cog on four Stanley Cup champions, including the Ducks in 2007.
As the 2001 birth year began to play hockey, Niedermayer and Craig Johnson, another longtime NHL player, were his coaches for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks and the California Firstars. Their tutelage helped lay a foundation for York to excel in the game to the point he was selected for the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) in April.
“Both of them were huge for my development,” York said.
York is the first Californian since Patrick Khodorenko in 2014 to be selected to the NTDP and the 31st player with ties to the state to be picked for the 20-year-old flagship program of USA Hockey.
The NTDP picks what it deems to be the top 23 players from a given birth year for its two-year program. It will afford York the opportunity to compete in several international competitions for Team USA and play a schedule against Junior A and college teams, all while going through a comprehensive training program.
York also is the first longtime Jr. Ducks player to make the NTDP. A handful of other Jr. Ducks, including fellow 2001s Ryan Johnson and Nicholas Kent, as well as 2000 birth year Slava Demin, have been invited to the NTDP’s evaluation camp over the past two years.
“He’s a player you’re very happy for because he’s such a good kid and he comes from such a great family,” said Craig Johnson, who is the Jr. Ducks’ director of coaches. “He’s got everything to his game. He can play offense, he defends well and he shoots the puck really hard.”
York’s game has played been on display during the past two seasons at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school in Minnesota. After 69 points (18 goals) in 60 games as a freshman on Shattuck’s Bantam team, he played for its high school team as a sophomore and generated 48 points in 54 games despite being one of the youngest players on the squad.
York said working with Niedermayer and Johnson day after day growing up prepared him for this stage of his hockey career.
“Scott would give you tips every day that were just eye openers,” York said. “I’m sure they weren’t a big deal to him, but they really helped me.
“I worked with Craig on stickhandling and shooting for years, and that helped those areas of my game. Both stressed keeping the game fun.”
York committed to Boston College (Hockey East) this past season after weighing a handful of Division I offers.
“Not only is the campus really nice, but Jerry York and his staff are top notch,” Cam York said. “It felt like the right place for me.”
However, York will spend the next two seasons in Plymouth, Mich., at the NTDP honing his game further. He got a taste of what he’s in store for at the evaluation camp in March.
“The pace was crazy high,” York said. “The biggest adjustment was the pace of the game.
“Everyone there is pretty good friends, so it’s not like stepping into a situation full of new faces. And the fact that Ryan (Johnson) and Nick (Kent) and I played on the same team and have gone up through the ranks together helped a lot, too.”
Rather than focus on the open doors for his future, York is taking a pragmatic approach to what he calls a “pretty crazy year.”
“I’m focused on what’s going on right now, not the things coming up,” he said.
— Chris Bayee