After a disastrous 2006/07 where the team went 22-48-12, the Philadelphia Flyers landed the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft, where they selected James van Riemsdyk from the U.S. National U-18 team.
Since being drafted, James has played 11 seasons and 741 games in the NHL and scored 481 points (247 G, 234 A) for both the Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
He spent his first 3 seasons with the Flyers before being dealt to the Maple Leafs in 2012 and then spent 6 seasons with the Maple Leafs.
In the 2018 offseason, JVR was one of the hottest free agents on the market and signed back with the Flyers for a five-year, $35 million contract with an AAV of $7 million. In his first season back with the team, he recorded 48 points (27 G, 21 A) in 66 games. He had a very rough first half of the season where he struggled to find the back of the net consistently but had an excellent “3rd quarter” of the season where he recorded 18 points in 20 games. After the firing of Dave Hakstol, JVR was arguably the best player on the middle of the road 2018/19 Flyers team.
Unfortunately, the momentum from the end of the 2019 season didn’t seem to carry into the 2019/20 season as it took him 8 games to record a single point. For the first 20 games of the season, JVR only recorded 9 points (4 G, 5 A). Although he somewhat got back on track as the season kept chugging along, the regular JVR goal numbers we expected from him weren’t there last season. Which generally wouldn’t be such a big deal if he provided value in all the zones on the ice, but he’s a below-average to average defensive forward. Just like Patrik Laine, JVR gets paid to put the puck in the back of the net, so it’s frustrating when he goes on long pointless streaks. For the season, he recorded 40 points (19 G, 21 A) in 66 games during the shortened 2019/20 season, which doesn’t seem awful on paper by any standard besides the fact that he was 6th in points last season while being the 4th highest earner on the team. But it’s realistic to expect 25+ goals from him every season as he has a proven track record of showing that he’s capable of scoring 27-32 goals in a season.
One of the biggest factors to JVR’s production and contribution to the team are his linemates. In the upcoming 2021 season, JVR is set to be a part of a Flyers bottom 6 forward group bound to be one of the best in the league. The 3rd line is very up in the air, but it’s assumed that the third line would look something like van Riemsdyk – Laughton – Farabee to start the season. This line could be very beneficial to a play like JVR as Laughton is a perfect bottom 6 center who can distribute the puck nicely, and Farabee had an excellent rookie campaign.
The biggest key would be to get JVR around the net as much as humanly possible because he is one of the best in the business at deflecting the puck past the goalie. IIf the 3rd line can stick together for a while and develop chemistry. They could realistically be the top 3rd line in the league and add another offensive layer to an already impressive forward group.
In the 2017/18 season, van Riemsdyk was in a similar situation with the Maple leads where he was paired up with Tyler Bozak, who was able to set him up with great scoring opportunities. Laughton and JVR played a lot together last season, so they know each other enough to have similar chemistry that James had in Toronto with Bozak for many years.
If the season was the regular 82 game length, It would be very reasonable to expect a JVR bounce-back season with 30+ goals and 50+ points as long as he didn’t get weaved in and out of lines.
JVR scored 18 goals and 32 points in the shortened 2012/13 season. In this shortened season, anywhere in the 17-24 goal range would be very acceptable.
Featured Image: CBC.ca