The Philadelphia Flyers have a damn good hockey team. Take a look at the team’s depth – there’s a reason the team sits fourth in goals for this season.
That ability to get scoring from all lines is integral, even if it means shuffling highly paid veterans down the lineup to make things work. One of those veterans was James van Riemsdyk, a once-integral part of the team’s scoring regiment that started to take a backseat to the team’s younger players over the past few seasons.
JVR signed a five-year deal in Philadelphia in 2018 following a career-high 36-goal season in Toronto the year prior, but a blocked shot just two games into the season knocked him out for six weeks. van Riemsdyk struggled to find his form over the next two seasons and was even scratched during the post-season last year, so you won’t be scolded if you didn’t see the second overall pick in 2007 bouncing back in any meaningful capacity.
It’s not like he’s been bad the past few years or anything. Other than his rookie season, JVR has finished with at least 40 points in all seven of the seasons where he has played at least 60 games. But with 10 points over the past five games – including points on all four goals in a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Jan. 31 – he looks mighty dangerous right now.
van Riemsdyk’s play with Voracek earlier in the season was good, but his play alongside Joel Farabee and Scott Laughton on the third line as of late has seemed to spike van Riemsdyk’s production. Farabee has four goals over the past two games, with JVR contributing on all of them.
While it was van Riemsdyk’s four power-play goals that made him noticeable early on (he won the league’s East Division star of the month honor for January), it’s been his playmaking numbers that have stood out the most in recent days. van Riemsdyk sits seventh in 5-on-5 ice time per game, but he’s been making the most of his opportunities. With a 4.46 points-per-60 rating, he’s the only Flyer to break the 4.00 mark through 11 games and he leads all NHL forwards with a 4.02 assists-per-60 rate (the best of his career so far).
It’s still early in the season, but van Riemsdyk seems to have found coach Alain Vigneault’s trust once again and has seen his ice time bumped back up in the 15:00 territory after seeing it fall below that twice over the past four years.
“I definitely feel confident in my game,” van Riemsdyk said Wednesday. “I put in a lot of work in, in the off-season, like I do every off-season. There’s things you try to do to expand your game and add range to your game every year. It’s nice that I’m able to contribute and chip in offensively.”
Maybe it’s a bit of the “New Dad Energy” rubbing off on him. He and his wife Lauren gave birth to a girl back in May, two months after the NHL’s regular season was called off. Other than a bit of a blip during the playoffs, he’s been lights out ever since – but he gives his wife full credit for that.
“She has been a rock star,” van Riemsdyk said. “This is obviously our first time going through a season like this together with the baby who’s nine months old today. She’s been great. Letting me sleep in on game days and days after games which is pretty much every single day of the week now. She’s definitely holding down the fort, allowing me to put all my energy on recovering and playing the best I can play.”
Consistency was a topic of concern for van Riemsdyk in the past, but his nightly contributions (just three games without a point) has made him so valuable this season. The Flyers sit in a three-way tie for first place in the NHL and JVR’s improved performance has made defending against Philly’s bottom six a brutal challenge for other East Division clubs. If he can contain the momentum, watch out.
“As far as where I’m at, at this stage of my career, it’s certainly all about the team and winning a Stanley Cup,” van Riemsdyk said. “So that’s what I’m focused on, day in and day out.”