The Philadelphia Flyers made a big splash when they signed James van Riemsdyk in the off-season. The five-year deal came after a career-high 36 goals for van Riemsdyk. It was the first time he hit the 30-goal mark since 2013-14. And with the Flyers in a tough battle for the playoffs, van Riemsdyk has been providing a much-needed scoring touch. He likely won’t best his total from last season, but he is proving why the Flyers signed him to the five-year deal.
James van Riemsdyk Adding Scoring Touch
Van Riemsdyk’s second stint with the Flyers didn’t start out the way anyone had planned. About five minutes into his second game of the season, a blocked shot off the knee would sideline him a little over five weeks. He would rejoin the lineup on November 15th, 16 games later. It was the first time since 2015-16 that van Riemsdyk missed an extended period of time due to injury.
And the rust showed for a while after he returned. His highest pointless streak lasted six games between November and December. Van Riemsdyk had 13 points in 22 games before the turn of the calendar year. While most of those games were multi-point games, it was still disappointing after his previous season.
Despite missing those 16 games, however, van Riemsdyk is now scoring at the same pace as his did last season. He has filled in well as the new net-front presence for the Flyers, something Wayne Simmonds did admirably before.
Thanks to a scoring outburst, van Riemsdyk ranks second on the team with 25 goals. His 42 points are fifth. And this is all while only appearing in 56 out of a possible 72 games thus far.
New Year, New van Riemsdyk
Since January 10th, van Riemsdyk has scored 19 goals in 29 games. Only Leon Draisaitl has scored the same amount of goals during that span. James van Riemsdyk also has scored 10 goals in his last 11 games. It is no surprise that the uptick in play came right around the time that Simmonds was traded.
The change in head coaches brought a change in role for van Riemsdyk. He wasn’t playing a lot of top six or man advantage time in the beginning months of this season. First looking at last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, van Riemsdyk was primarily on the team’s third line and was paired up with Tyler Bozak as his centerman. 30.5% of his goals came on the power-play
James van Riemsdyk still enjoys success on the power-play, where 32% of his goals have come this season. His role has become more and more elevated as the season has gone on. But it has been more about who he has played with than the situations he has been playing in.
Getting injured two games into the season, the Flyers were still trying to figure out where he best fit in the lineup. According to Natural Stat Trick, van Riemsdyk has spent most of his time this season playing with Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny. He has spent about 342 minutes with Konecny and about 336 minutes with Giroux. The next closest forward was Simmonds with about 171 minutes.
“I think you just like to play with smart players, ultimately and we have a lot of those in this room.” van Riemsdyk said previously. “It’s a chance to find chemistry with a lot of different guys in here. That’s been a lot of fun.”
Looking Towards Next Season
While the Flyers are mathematically still in the playoff race, it is unlikely they are able to close the gap with 10 games remaining. But they do have a few things to look forward to as they finish out the season. The recent play of van Riemsdyk should give the team a good look at what he can do when healthy. He has 28 points in his last 29 games, after 14 points in his previous 27 games.
While one can only imagine, it is possible that van Riemsdyk may have broken his career high in goals again if he had remained healthy this season. But what he has done is impressive nonetheless.
It should be another big off-season for the Flyers, but they know what they have in James van Riemsdyk and could potentially get even more in a full season. His 36 goals last season came in 81 games. It is not unlikely he could reach that mark again.
Main Photo by Kate Frese (@KateFresePhoto), licensed to Last Word on Hockey. The Photographer retains all rights to the photograph.