JVR’s Journey Back to the Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk is deeply connected to the organization. He was drafted by the team second overall in the 2007 NHL Draft (behind Patrick Kane, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks). He has played over 300 games with the Orange and Black, and the Flyers community is where he grew his professional roots. He was traded to the Maple Leafs in 2012 and spent six seasons in Toronto before the man nicknamed JVR returned to don the Flyers jersey.

Philadelphia Flyers' James van Riemsdyk Dallas Stars Anton Khudobin
Philadelphia Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk scores on Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Here is some backstory on JVR’s journey.

Joining Leaf Nation

After splitting the 2008-09 season with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats and the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms, van Riemsdyk signed his entry level contract and spent three seasons with the Flyers. In those three years he established himself as a secondary scorer, posting the following numbers during the regular season:

  • 2009-10: 15 goals and 20 assists in 78 games
  • 2010-11: 21 goals and 19 assists for 40 points in 75 games
  • 2011-12: 11 goals and 13 assists in 43 games

He was also a significant presence in the postseason, helping the team reach the 2010 Stanley Cup Final as a rookie, a campaign where he tallied three goals and three assists in 21 contests. He surpassed his playoff point total the following year, with seven goals in 11 games. By the end of the 2012 playoffs, van Riemsdyk had 15 points in 39 postseason games.

James van Riemsdyk Flyers
van Riemsdyk spent his first three NHL seasons with the Flyers. (Icon SMI)

Despite what looked to be a promising future for the then 22-year-old, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren decided to move the team in another direction. JVR was traded to the Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn, whose brother Brayden was traded to the Flyers in the summer of 2011 (Interesting side note, the JVR-Luke Schenn trade happened exactly a year to the day after Brayden was traded to the Flyers).

The Schenn brothers were reunited as van Riemsdyk headed to one of the most historic franchises in the league.

Making His Return

van Riemsdyk continued his development with the Blue and White, suiting up alongside Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak, and Nazem Kadri. He became a staple on the Leafs offense while the organization was trying to become a consistent playoff contender.

Phil Kessel Maple Leafs
One of van Riemsdyk’s linemates in his early Leaf career was right winger Phil Kessel (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

As his career in Toronto continued and new management took over, JVR was playing with the 2016 first overall pick, Auston Matthews, 2015 fourth overall pick Mitch Marner, winger William Nylander, and defenseman Morgan Rielly. Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Lou Lamoriello (who eventually left) were building something special. They were succeeded by assistant GM Kyle Dubas and head coach Mike Babcock.

As the seasons went on, van Riemsdyk’s production increased and he became the talent he set out to be when he was younger. His stats during his run with the Maple Leafs are as follows:

  • 2012-13 (lockout-shortened season): 18 goals and 14 assists in 48 games
  • 2013-14: 30 goals and 31 assists in 80 games
  • 2014-15: 27 goals and 29 assists for 56 points in 82 games
  • 2015-16: 14 goals and 15 assists in 40 games
  • 2016-17: 29 goals and 33 assists for 62 points in 82 games
  • 2017-18: 36 goals and 18 assists for 54 points in 81 games

Toronto started making playoff appearances regularly, but the organization wanted to become an unstoppable force. This meant more changes to the roster. JVR was included in those changes with his contract expiring on July 1, 2018.

The Leafs decided not to re-sign him in an effort to free up cap space to sign prized free agent and former New York Islanders captain John Tavares, who signed with his hometown club. There was a lot of speculation as to where van Riemsdyk would sign, but the yellow brick road ultimately led the left winger back to Philadelphia. The two parties agreed to a five-year contract worth $35 million.

Fans were dusting off their old jerseys, excited to welcome an old friend back into their lives.

JVR’s Second Stint

It has only been a season and a half since van Riemsdyk returned to the Orange and Black, but so far he has been a solid player. In 66 games during the 2018-19 season, he netted 27 goals and 48 points. His game matured while he was with the Leafs, and it shows to the point that he is helping his younger teammates. He has 12 goals and 23 points in 42 games this season,

He is a solid secondary scorer, helping his teammates like Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, and captain Claude Giroux to produce. The 2019-20 Flyers have a lot of talent and JVR is one of the offensive pieces that provides scoring depth.

JVR’s teammate Travis Konecny (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

van Riemsdyk is especially good at scoring from the dirty areas. He has always been a solid net-front presence, dating back to his time in Toronto. He is not afraid to stand in front of the opposition’s goalie and take a beating and many of his goals are scored off spot-on deflections.

JVR is pointless in his last five games, but I expect him to break his scoring drought soon and continue to help the Flyers become a serious threat.