James van Riemsdyk is almost a local favorite in Philadelphia these days and I say almost because he is from New Jersey. Now yes, South New Jersey is just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia but van Riemsdyk is from Middletown, NJ, about 30 minutes west of where I grew up in North Jersey. But nonetheless fans have embraced him as one of their own. Local enough and getting points on the scoring sheet will make Flyers fan very happy. I would know because I am one of them.
James was originally picked 2nd overall by the Flyers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft but decided to play the next two years at the University of New Hampshire where in 31 games he racked up a consistent and offensive 11 goals and 23 assists. In 7 games with Philadelphia's AHL affiliate the Phantoms, James accumulated 2 points. This past offseason "JVR" had a very impressive rookie camp and showed Coach Stevens and ex-Broad Street Bully and current GM Paul Holmgren that he can be a reliable third liner with some scoring prowess.
But now, one month into this hockey season James finds himself in a new spot. Injuries to Simon Gagne and Danny Briere means James will be getting time on the first and second lines with offensive players such as Captain Mike Richards and high scoring center Jeff Carter. The defensive pairings of the top lines work very well to help young James because the top defensive line for the Flyers consists of young and offensive Matt Carle and a dependable and hard hitting Chris Pronger. Just a few games in James "had his bell rung" as described by GM Holmgren. Since that point van Riemsdyk has exploded to a NHL rookie leading 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists). His +/- is a plus 6 and with a strong team around him that can only go up. In his last 5 games van Riemsdyk has 2 goals and 6 assists for a total of 8 points. Not bad for someone who is just now being tossed into the top lines. Hopefully for the Flyers though Simon Gagne has a good recovery from surgery and Briere's groin no longer bothers him.
I was recently at one of Riemsdyk's games down here in South Florida against the Panthers and he did not play like a rookie. He was showing signs of maturity, passing the puck to open players and not giving it up on tight passes. JVR was taking up space in front of the net and shooting from good locations on the ice. Whenever he was knocked down in front of the net he would get right back up and jump back into the play.
As of now JVR is showing that he wants to play in Philadelphia for years to come and wants to be a foward that people will dread facing with his combination of speed, scoring and size. Seriously the kid is 6 foot 3 and 200 pounds .