Taking a look at James van Riemsdyk and his potential in Toronto
Last June, the Flyers and Maple Leafs pulled off something that hardly ever seems to happen anymore in the NHL; they swapped value for value in a one for one trade. Philadelphia was deep up front, but shallow on the backend, while Toronto was in the opposite position, having some depth on defence, while lacking forwards with top shelf potential. That's why the James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn will go down as a rare win-win for both sides.
James van Riemsdyk was drafted by the Flyers second overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. That year, Patrick Kane was taken first overall by Chicago and would go on to win the Calder Memorial trophy as the NHL's top rookie.
Looking back at his two World Junior Championships (2008 and 2009), van Riemsdyk scored a combined 11 goals and 21 points in 12 games for Team USA. He also played in two games at the World Championship in 2011, where he scored a goal.
In his inaugural NHL campaign, van Riemsdyk recorded 15 goals and 35 points in 78 games. He followed that up with a 21 goal, 40 point effort. Last season, he was on pace to better his sophomore numbers, but sat out significant stretches of the year with head (concussion) and foot injuries. Still, 24 points in 43 games pro-rate to 46 points had he played the full 82 game schedule. His shots on goal were also projected to take a nice jump from 173 to what would have been 231. It's a positive sign that he was steadily improving his point totals in each of his first three NHL seasons.
Last season, JVR averaged 15:10 ice time per contest, ninth best amongst Flyer forwards. He also received the seventh most average power play time (2:47) during his 43 games and managed to register five power play points. Those numbers should see a nice bump upwards as the Leafs will want to see what their new acquisition can do.
There was talk of playing the 23-year-old at center, as the Leafs are not thrilled with what they have down the middle. If things fall right for van Riemsdyk, he could end up skating with Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel. That would be a huge opportunity for JVR.
He's going from a top nine situation to what should be a top six opportunity and unless he completely blows it, he will be given every chance to break out in what would be his fourth NHL campaign. All we need now is a season this year! If you want to play it safe, count on 25 goals and 50 points in his first season with the Buds. If you are a gambler, then bet on all going well and he could hit for 65-70 points next season, but that's a very optimistic outlook.
Another young Leaf that should improve this season is defenseman Jake Gardiner. Looking back at his final year of college hockey, he recorded an incredible 41 points in 41 games with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. On completion of his WCHA career, he closed out the regular season with Toronto's AHL affiliate by recording three points in 10 games. Where Gardiner really shone was the playoffs, recording 11 points in 17 playoff games with the Marlies.
In his rookie NHL campaign last year, Gardiner recorded 30 points in 75 games, second only to Dion Phaneuf for points by a Leaf blueliner. He averaged the third most time on ice (21:35) on the team, including some second unit power play time (1:58 per game).
One thing that might be a concern is that he took nearly half of his even-strength shifts with Luke Schenn. Will Schenn's absence have a negative effect on Gardiner's play? It will be interesting to see who they pair him up with. It goes without saying that it's critical to how well the 22-year-old will play in his second NHL season.
Gardiner will still receive top four minutes and second unit power play time. We should expect a small bump to around 35 points this season. He'll need more power play minutes if he is going to surpass the 40 point mark though.
Hey, if he does really well, maybe they will name an Expressway after him or something...
During the 1969-70 season, the Philadelphia Flyers set what is now an unbreakable NHL record for Ties in a season. They recorded 24 Ties during a 76 game season, an incredible 32 per cent of their games. Now that Ties are no longer a possible outcome, it is an NHL record that will never be broken.
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