He’s no longer that young kid who was drafted with the second overall pick in 2007.
In fact, those who watched the 2011 NHL playoffs saw James van Riemsdyk became a man.
No longer considered a prospect, but a rising superstar of the National Hockey League, JVR’s time has come. Though it might have come quicker than anyone expected after the Flyers’ summer fire sale.
JVR was the only standout for the Flyers in last year’s playoffs. Not Claude Giroux. Not Mike Richards. Not Danny Briere.
After Philadelphia were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in four games in the Eastern Conference semis, JVR sat atop the NHL leader-board with 70 shots.
Over the coarse of an 82-game season that’s 525 shots. Obviously, that’s a figment of anyone’s imagination with this year’s highest being 367 from the stick of Alex Ovechkin, however, it’s still fascinating to glance at.
Naturally, one thing is for sure, the Flyers are banking on JVR to shoot the puck more than ever in the 2011-12 season. Especially since the Flyers annual top-shooter, Jeff Carter, was dealt to Columbus over the offseason.
Carter, who was the Flyers biggest scoring threat averaging just over 30 goals a season in his six years in Philadelphia, left quite a significant hole in the Flyers offensive lineup. Now, JVR will have that load placed on top of his shoulders. It’s become obvious the sky’s the limit for JVR. The exposure is higher than it was when he was drafted.
Van Riemsdyk notched a career-high 21 goals last season. That’s just two more than rookie showing of 19. With Carter in the rear-view mirror, JVR will be expected to produce at least 25-goals this season and beyond. That shouldn’t be a tall task if van Riemsdyk can channel his playoff performance of last season.
The 22-year old from Middlebury N.J., will surpass his 173 shot total of the last two seasons quicker than even he could imagine. Head coach Peter Laviolette will most likely juggle JVR around with the likes of Briere and Scott Hartnell throughout training camp. If that comes to fruition, the Flyers will look for Briere to become more of a playmaker than just a sharp-shooter to leave plenty of room for the sharp-shooting van Riemsdyk.
With the Flyers coming into this season as ‘green’ as they’ve been since before the lockout, the organization is as high as ever on players like Giroux and JVR. They’re the present and future of the franchise. If things don’t work out as planned, look for Holmgren to face the most heat.
Only JVR can go out there on the ice and prove that what he did last season and in the playoffs wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Instead, he’s hoping to show the Philadelphia fans that he is, in fact, for real and ready to take over his role as the future of this hockey franchise.
Chris DiFrancesco covers the Flyers for spikeeskin.com, follow him on Twitter @CDiFrancesco86.