We need to talk about Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk a lot more.
It is just under a month since the 2020-21 NHL season opened, and there has already been a plethora of eye-catching individual displays across the board from the usual suspects and from certain players you may have forgotten about. Include James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers in that latter category.
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Okay, so forgotten about might be a bit strong, but there is no doubt that van Riemsdyk has flown under the radar in the opening weeks of the 2020-21 season despite being a key cog in a Flyers team that has been one of the top dogs in the stacked and talent-laden East Division, despite the fact that some of their underlying metrics spark concern when it comes to their long-term sustainability this year.
However, despite dropping a tough 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins in OT on Wednesday Night Hockey after leading 3-1 midway through the third period, the Flyers are still second in the East with a 7-2-2 record and a Goal Differential of +2, while they rank 10th in Goals For Per Game (3.45) in the NHL.
They’ve got the talent, the depth and the goaltending needed to not only be a hugely-successful regular-season team this year but to also make a deep postseason run, and they also appear to have a player in James van Riemsdyk who appears determined to silence his critics and provide a real scoring punch to a team already packing a lot of firepower.
James van Riemsdyk deserves more attention for his Flyers role in 2020-21
There is a sad unwritten rule in life where you can do a boatload of good things and not get any recognition, but slip up once and make one mistake and then all of a sudden your reputation will get dragged through the mud and that’s all you will be remembered for.
That’s kind of where we are with James van Riemsdyk, who has been much-maligned ever since returning to the Philadelphia Flyers in July 2018 by signing a five-year, $35 million contract after a six-season stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Granted, having an Average Annual Value of $7 million will attract that kind of negative attention, and it will only intensify when you play in a fierce market such as Philadelphia and not produce as much as your hefty price tag demands that you do.
The 31-year-old did score 27 goals and record 48 points in his first season back in the City of Brotherly Love in 2018-19, but he regressed in 2019-20 with 19 goals and 40 points in 66 regular-season games, while he was a healthy scratch on a couple of occasions in the postseason and his Head Coach Alain Vigneault made it clear that he wanted more from the left-winger.
Well, whatever was said behind closed doors has clearly done the trick as van Riemsdyk has emerged as a different player in the opening weeks of the 2020-21 season, becoming a key offensive threat and providing the kind of secondary scoring that any legit contender needs if they are to climb to the top of the mountain and win a Stanley Cup.
Through 11 games van Riemsdyk has five goals and 10 assists for 15 points, including two assists in Wednesday night’s loss to the Boston Bruins, and he has 10 points in the last five games alone including a four-point night (0 G, 4 A) in a win over the New York Islanders on Sunday, the most assists he has recorded in one game.
Recently named the East Division’s Player of the Month, James van Riemsdyk has really elevated his game in all areas, currently boasting a shooting percentage of 21.7% while averaging 15:07 of ATOI with seven hits and four Takeaways. He’s been a dominant player all over the ice for the Flyers and he’s also been a playmaking machine.
Again, with eight assists in his last five games, van Riemsdyk is really making things happen for Philadelphia in a variety of ways and just watch this play against the Boston Bruins last night where he forced a turnover which led to a two-on-one rush for the Flyers, which Joel Farabee converted on to give his team a 3-1 lead.
It was just a real clever hustle play from van Riemsdyk who anticipated the mistake from Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy before taking advantage of it, and the winger also battled hard to keep the play alive that led to Jakub Voracek tallying Philadelphia’s second goal of the night. Those are the kind of plays you expect from a power forward, especially one who is paid $7 million per year, and the veteran is certainly paying his dues so far this year.
Overall, there are a number of reasons why the Philadelphia Flyers are off to a very, very good start in 2020-21 despite their less than stellar play, and one of those reasons is James van Riemsdyk who is off to an incredibly hot start and is playing the kind of dominant 200-foot game that persuaded this franchise to pay him the big bucks in order to bring him back in 2018. And, showcasing his elite playmaking ability, the forward has really added another potent offensive weapon to this team and his continued excellence this year could be a huge factor in the Philadelphia Flyers taking that next big leap and moving a step closer to becoming a genuine Stanley Cup contender. And, his current elite level of play also means that we should be talking about James van Riemsdyk a lot more than we are this season.