Blackhawks Player Spotlight: Trevor van Riemsdyk

#57 Trevor van Riemsdyk

Height: 6’2″
Birthdate: July 24, 1991 (Age 24)
Hometown: Middletown, NJ
Position: Defense
Shoots: Right

Star on the Rise

Last season was a memorable one for Trevor van Riemsdyk.  He came out of nowhere in training camp, un-drafted out of the University of New Hampshire, to earn a roster spot on a team with one of the toughest line ups to crack, and a coach who is notorious for favoring veterans.  Unfortunately for TVR, just as he was getting comfortable, he took a slap shot off of his knee, that sidelined him for several months.  To make a bad situation worse, during his rehab stint with the Rockford Icehogs, van Riemsdyk suffered a broken wrist that also required surgery.  For most rookies, this would be the worst case scenario.  What if you return, and the spot you won is no longer available? What if you can’t get back to the same place you were before the injuries? All of these questions have to find their way into a any players head after a start like Trevor van Riemsdyk had.

Instead, TVR leaned on his family, and his team mates to work through the setbacks and get back on the ice as quickly as possible.  For van Riemsdyk, he has the added benefit of a sibling in the NHL. His older brother is forward James van Riemsdyk, of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  In fact, he comes from a hockey family, with his younger brother Brendan also likely to find his way to the NHL, sometime in the near future.  Each of them had a role in keeping the young defenseman on track, and upbeat throughout his recovery.

What Trevor van Riemsdyk didn’t know at this time last year, was that in spite of everything he would go through, his rookie campaign would also be remembered as one of the best of his career.  Somehow, through force of will van Riemsdyk was able to get back into the line up, just in time for the Stanley Cup finals, something that even a week prior had been a long shot at best.  After nearly two weeks grinding away against one of the best teams the league had to offer in the Tampa Bay Lightning, van Riemsdyk ended his season once again, only this time he ended it with a Stanley Cup hoisted over his head.

This year, van Riemsdyk is entering a brand new situation.  One where he will be expected to take on an expanded role, and it is a role that he has relished thus far.  At the end of last season, van Riemsdyk was limited due to his injuries, and averaged 13:32 minutes of ice time in eighteen games. With the loss of Johnny Oduya, and an early season injury to iron man Duncan Keith, van Riemsdyk has seen his minutes balloon up to 22:34 in Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers. With the consistency in his game, he is likely to earn 20+ minutes a night, with such veterans as Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

The transition from college to NHL might have been a bit rocky, but his transition from role player to everyday defenseman has been much smoother.  TVR has earned the trust of his coaches, his team mates, and the fans.

“You see him in situations that you feel he can take on a little bit more responsibility, not only big minutes but in matchups … as well,” Quenneville said. “We’re comfortable with him against top guys.” ~ Chicago Tribune

“For a young guy, he seems like he has a ton of patience,” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “He sees the ice really well and he has a lot of skill. He moves the puck quickly, especially with our group of forwards. … The name of our game is fast pace and ‘Riems’ looks like he’s fitting in well right now.” ~ Chicago Tribune

Possession Game

With young defenseman, and young players in general, it is not uncommon to have some errors in the defensive zone.  It is a product of nerves more often than not, but with TVR, there is simply a calm about him that belies his years. That calm has earned him a heavier shift load, and time on the power play in the absence of Duncan Keith, which is a massive vote of confidence from Joel Quenneville and the team.

van Riemsdyk’s impact is easy to see as he plays effectively in all three zones, but what is even more impressive is the stat sheet.  TVR’s Corsi For Percentage is 57% on the season, that’s good enough for third best on the team (Hockey Reference).  Why is this important?  Corsi For Percentage measures possession.  A number above 50% means that the Blackhawks have the puck more often than not when a certain player is on the ice.  The highest on the team is another rookie, Artemi Panarin at 59.3% and he appears to have the puck on a string nearly every time he’s on the ice, so a number lingering around 57% is a pretty solid number.

Both rookies (van Riemsdyk is still eligible as he did not reach 25 games last season) have played well enough to earn a spot on a number of Calder Trophy watch lists for Rookie of the Year, though it is still early.  The last time the Blackhawks had two players involved in that conversation was 2007-2008, and the rookies in question were Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.  Kane ultimately took the Rookie of the Year honors that season.  The Hawks have not had a player in contention since, though Teuvo Teravainen had a solid campaign last season.

The Road Ahead

Trevor van Riemsdyk has a long career ahead of him, and he figures to be a long-term piece of the equation for the Blackhawks blue line.  After one year, he has already played beside some of the league’s best and most dynamic players, earned a top pairing on defense, received his first contract extension, and won a Stanley Cup.  It is safe to say, in spite of all the hurdles TVR faced in his first year in the NHL, those will not be the memories he holds onto.  Instead, he will recall how the Stanley Cup felt as he lifted it over his head for the first time, and the chase that has now begun as the Blackhawks work to take it back again for the 7th time in Franchise history.

Whether that happens this season is unknown, but as Van Riemsdyk can attest, anything is possible.

“It was a crazy year,” said van Riemsdyk, who paraded the Cup in his hometown in late July. “I couldn’t have imagined it going that way. From the start to the finish, it was filled with surprises, but it was a fun year. Obviously, some peaks and valleys, but it ended on a pretty high note.”