Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk was a top level prospect when drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers second overall in the 2007 NHL entry draft. He was riding the high of dominating the 2006-07 World Junior Championship, tallying 12 points in five games for the United States. Many experts had him pegged as the premier power forward of the 2007 draft.
JVR, as his Flyers teammates call him, proceeded to spend two seasons with his NCAA squad at the University of New Hampshire before making the leap to the NHL. He spent this time maturing as a hockey player, and growing into his lanky frame.
Upon joining the Flyers last season, he got off to a hot start and looked to be a promising young addition to an already stacked Flyers team. His performance crashed to a halt midway through the season, and his second half numbers were lacklustre. His six points in 21 playoff games during the Flyers miracle run to the Stanley Cup finals are an indicator of his struggles.
JVR dedicated his off-season to becoming stronger and faster, two adjustments that he felt were needed to take the next step as an NHL player. He looked great in the pre-season, and things were on the upswing for the sophomore winger.
Then the regular season began. Regular season hockey is much different than pre-season hockey, as teams dress full rosters and the intensity is high. This is when JVR’s off-season work should be showing through and he proves he belong at the NHL level.
Three points in his first four games seemed to be a positive sign that this would be a good year for JVR. One assist in his next nine games earned van Riemsdyk a spot on the sidelines, watching his team play their next four games from the press-box.
JVR was called back into the line-up when his replacement Andreas Nodl was listed as day-to-day with a foot injury. He was put on a line with a red-hot Mike Richards and Nikolay Zherdev, to rejoin the surging Flyers. Since then, van Riemsdyk has zero points, three shots, and has looked completely ineffective in two games. When a JVR is invisible on the ice with a player like Richards, who is so positionally sound and effective at finding his line mates, you know that he is not playing up to his potential.
With players like Nodl, who has five points in his last six starts, and Eric Wellwood the former Windsor Spitfires standout, playing surprisingly well for the Flyers in their given opportunities this season, JVR must be hearing footsteps.
Will the Flyers send him to their AHL affiliate Adirondack Phantoms? Do they think he’s a bust? Will they continue to bench him? Or perhaps they will trade him to a team looking to rebuild their core in exchange for another piece to the Flyers puzzle ensuring them another run at the Stanley Cup. With the Flyers having so many players signed long term (Richards, Carter, Giroux) there may not be room for JVR in Philly’s future.
The Toronto Maple Leafs come to mind when thinking of possible suitors for JVR. The Leafs are run by Americans, general manager Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson. The Leafs are also in the process of rebuilding, and Burke is looking to build a contender for future years.
The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t got off to the start that they would have liked as the defending Stanley Cup champs. Picking up van Riemsdyk would help strengthen their young core while providing JVR the chance to reunite with World Junior teammate Patrick Kane, who is struggling in his own right this season.
All this trade talk is merely speculation at this point, but JVR’s poor play this season is an unsettling reality. If he doesn’t pick up his play and prove his worth to the Flyers he may soon be deemed expendable, and will be considered a bargaining chip rather than a roster spot.
Only time will tell what will happen with JVR, and for now the clock is ticking.