James van Riemsdyk Will Improve the Flyers Power Play

The Philadelphia Flyers signed James van Riemsdyk in the offseason to help balance out the lines, and put some pucks in the net. He will be an improvement to the team’s second power play unit and bring some stability to it.

Flyers Second Power Play Unit in 2017-18

The team’s second power play unit wasn’t exactly one of the best in the League last season, and the lack of ice time played a big part. The top group could be lethal with a combination of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek, and Shayne Gostisbehere. The second unit may have only seen 30 seconds of power play time during an opportunity, so they didn’t contribute a lot. The group didn’t establish chemistry between players because on any given night there could be anyone from Travis Konecny to Jori Lehtera on the ice together. The most consistent player on this group was Jordan Weal, who spent time on the man advantage when he was in the lineup.

Travis Konecny Flyers
Travis Konecny Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The mishmash of players only managed seven goals, nine assists, and 16 points last season but injuries and player promotions to the first group cost them some points. The second unit had a hard time getting set up in the offensive zone, but once they did, it seemed like no one wanted to shoot the puck. After Nolan Patrick was promoted because of an injury to Wayne Simmonds, there was no real net-front presence to take the goaltender’s eyes away. They couldn’t win puck battles and would get outnumbered along the boards so teams could easily clear the puck down the ice to waste time off the man advantage.

Predicting the Flyers Second Power Play Unit

There could be three different combinations to start the season on this unit with van Riemsdyk, Patrick and Konecny up front with the defensemen being different. The safest option would be to put Weal and Ivan Provorov on the blue line with van Riemsdyk being the only player not to have played with this group last season. The least likely choice would be to have Oskar Lindblom and Provorov joining the mix since Lindblom didn’t get much power play time while he was up with the Flyers last year. The best option would be to put Travis Sanheim and Provorov together on the blue line with van Riemsdyk, Patrick, and Konecny.

Nolan Patrick Flyers
Nolan Patrick – November 24, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This player combination could do some damage and take the heat off of the first unit to produce. There is a ton of offensive skill in this group including the defensemen, who can really move the puck and that should help this group get set up faster. There would be two big bodies in front to take the goalie’s eyes off the puck to get some rebound chances and deflections. Patrick would be in the slot area receiving pucks for one-timers, while van Riemsdyk would be around the crease for the dirty goals. Konecny could be the guy on the half wall, but the power play would likely run through Provorov. There should be plenty of movement on this unit since any of the forwards can change positions and still be effective. The thing that could be a downfall for them is that they are a young group both in age and experience.

What van Riemsdyk Will Bring to the Power Play

The biggest thing that he will bring to the second unit is his veteran leadership since it will be a young group. The winger will also help to balance out the power play because the Flyers will now have two potentially solid combinations instead of just one. The first unit will see less ice time with the players behind them producing, and they will be fresher. van Riemsdyk will help them avoid long stretches without producing since he had 11 goals, nine assists, and 20 points last season, while the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the man advantage.

James van Riemsdyk Philadelphia Flyers
James van Riemsdyk (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Leafs best trade bait. His 11 goals and 20 points were more than the Flyers second group put up during all of last season. van Riemsdyk will be the net-front presence that the unit needs and lacked last year with the promotion of Patrick to the first unit. The winger can also find the back of the net with his shots, so he should add between 10 to 15 goals more for the Flyers power play. van Riemsdyk will be a weapon because he isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, unlike last year when the players hesitated to take their shot.

Predicting Where the Flyers Power Play Finishes

The team’s overall power play will be improved with some production from van Riemsdyk and the rest of the players on the second unit. The numbers from the first group could slip, but they usually find a way to get it done while on the man advantage. The Flyers were ranked fifteenth in the League on the man advantage, scoring on 20.7% of their chances, but gave up 10 shorthanded goals.

Ryan Suter Sean Couturier Jake Voracek
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers, Nov. 11, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There will be more options for head coach Dave Hakstol to try to maximize the talent on the power play. If a player is injured or slumping, the units can be tweaked without taking too much from one of them. The addition of van Riemsdyk gives the Flyers two balanced groups making it harder for teams to prepare for them. When the team is on the power play, they will be more consistent this year making for a top five finish in the league.