Cameron York understands his offense is what draws attention. But the defenseman with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team has worked hard to show NHL scouts he's just as effective in the defensive zone.
"I've told many teams I don't feel I get enough credit for my defensive game," York said. "Obviously you see the record that I've broken offensively, but defensively I take a lot of pride in that as well. I feel like I'm an elite defender, always have an active stick, always in good position. I feel I'm an underrated defenseman."
York's offensive skills certainly weren't underrated. The 18-year-old set the single-season NTDP record for defensemen with 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists) in 63 games. His 103 points (22 goals, 81 assists) in 122 games over two seasons with the NTDP are second among defensemen to J.D. Forrest (110 points).
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He capped his season with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) to help the United States win the bronze medal at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He led all defensemen in scoring and tied Jamie McBain (2006) for most points at the tournament by a U.S. defenseman. Combined with the six assists he had in seven games at the 2018 tournament, his 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 14 career games are the most by any defenseman to play at the World U-18s.
Those numbers add up to York being No. 12 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking for the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The first round is June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
But for York (5-foot-11, 172 pounds), numbers don't tell the whole story, and certainly don't show the work he did to improve defensively during his time with the NTDP.
"I put a lot of effort into practice," he said. "Those guys, we go up against each other in 1-on-1 drills so those guys know best. People in the stands might not see it every game but it's something I take a lot of pride in. It's an area of my game that I've tried to improve as much as possible."
Video: Highlights of USA Hockey NTDP defenseman Cam York
Ten of the NTDP forwards he practiced against regularly are listed on Central Scouting's final ranking, including five of the top nine players. To them, all that practice time has paid off for York.
"When people look at offensive defensemen they automatically think that he can't play defense," said Jack Hughes, No. 1 on Central Scouting's list and expected to be the No. 1 pick of the draft. "But [York] epitomizes a two-way defenseman. Just the way he can move the puck and transition the puck and defend, his transition game from stealing the puck from the opponent and then taking it and dishing it to center ice, to head-man the puck, that's second to none. He's for sure one of the best defensemen in this draft class."
NTDP coach John Wroblewski said York's game is similar to Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But he also sees some similarities to a Detroit Red Wings Hall of Famer.
"The mark of a defenseman is sometimes you don't notice them because they're so efficient on the ice," Wroblewski said. "Nick Lidstrom, he's cut out of that same ilk. I'm not saying this guy is going to be Nick Lidstrom, but the efficiency level that Nick played with is very akin to how Cam dissects the game and gets through a game. There's a really, really solid prospect there."
York will continue his progress at the University of Michigan next season, a 20-minute drive west on Route 14 from Plymouth, Michigan, where the NTDP is based.
Video: COMBINE | Cameron York
When he's not getting ready for the rigors of college life, he'll carve out some time for some fishing near his family's home in Anaheim, California.
"Me and my dad have a 28-foot boat and we like to go out to Catalina and San Clemente, those are pretty popular islands for us," York said. "We go for bluefin tuna when they're around, as well as California yellowtail ... I've caught a 50-pound bluefin as well as a 40-pound yellowtail. Big fish, fight really hard, always a blast to get out on the water and try to hook up with one of those."
After battling fish, it'll be back to battling opposing forwards, and those who don't think he can be an effective two-way defenseman.
"I always have an active stick, stick on puck, limiting guys' time and space as much as possible," he said. "I think that has benefited me as a player. It's something that I'm going to continue to do at the college level and hopefully the NHL level."
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