The 1st overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft was Patrick Kane. Since then, Kane has become part of the NHL’s young elite. Oh yeah, he also has a Stanley Cup winning goal on his resume.
In the 2006-07 season, the Philadelphia Flyers finished with the worst record in their history. Which gave them a 25% chance of winning the NHL Draft lottery that off-season. If the Flyers had selected at number one, they would have undoubtably picked Patrick Kane.
The Flyers drew the 2nd pick, and selected James van Riemsdyk.
While Patrick Kane was headed to the NHL after his very first training camp with the Blackhawks, James van Riemsdyk headed to New Hampshire to play in the Hockey East Association, College Hockey.
Patrick Kane went on to score 21 goals in his rookie season, then 25 in his sophomore campaign. Meanwhile, James van Riemsdyk had spent two seasons playing at New Hampshire.
Even though Flyers nation had hope for van Riemsdyk, it was getting harder and harder to watch Patrick Kane become one of the NHL’s top young superstars. Especially when, there wasn’t much talk about van Riemsdyk, the only thing clear was that he simply wasn’t ready to play at the NHL level. To say fans felt disheartened would be an understatement.
Then it came, the announcement that van Riemsdyk was finally coming to the orange and black. He would forgo his final two-years at New Hampshire and sign a contract with the Flyers, beginning in the 2009-10 season. Even then, the thought was that van Riemsdyk would at least start the season with the Flyers AHL affiliate, Phantoms. Though, he surprised during training camp and started the season with the big club.
JVR showed lots of skill, but still appeared a bit raw during his rookie campaign. He didn’t quite put up Patrick Kane-like numbers, but tallied a respectable 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points.
This year, van Riemsdyk slowly improved as the season has progressed.
At 6″3 211lbs, van Riemsdyk plays fast and physical, and has the ability to be a dangerous goal-scorer. Most importantly, he’s developing the kind of habits that will allow him to not only become a consistent scorer, but a well-rounded one, as well. His undeniable skill is being complimented by his commitment to playing the game the right way. He’s ferocious when he needs to be, and able to make the intelligent play when necessary. At 22 years of age, he still has a lot of hockey to learn, however, so far, he’s showing how quick a learner he is. It’s clear, JVR has bought-in to head coach Peter Laviolette’s preaching of conditioning and preparedness.
During these playoffs van Riemsdyk has quietly played perhaps the best hockey of his young NHL career. One could argue he’s been one of the best players on the ice for most of the Flyers first round series against the Buffalo Sabres.
Even though, he’s only registered 1 goal so far in the series, he’s still been effective, and noticeable. Whether he’s finishing a check in the corner, making a diving defensive play at the blue-line, or dekeing around defenders, he’s been hard not to notice.
It’s safe to say, van Riemsdyk is budding right before our eyes. He didn’t have the early success that Patrick Kane had, but he’s certainly on his way toward Kane’s level. If you ask him, my guess is he’d say the talent and potential were always there, he’s just a late bloomer.