The first day of NHL Free Agency brought back a familiar face to the Philadelphia Flyers. The familiar face just so happens to be former 2nd overall pick James van Riemsdyk. The left winger spent the past six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. As a member of the Leafs, he was instrumental in his team’s goal scoring. Van Riemsdyk ranks 5th in goals scored among left wingers since the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. This is where he provides the most value to his teams.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, James van Riemsdyk Brings a Scoring touch
It’s no secret that the Flyers are in need of depth scoring. This signing addresses that particular need. Van Riemsdyk is a shoot-first forward, which is yet another area of need among the Flyers forward group. JVR’s term on his deal with the Flyers is team friendly (5 years). He should be able to be a valuable contributor throughout the majority of his contract. Also, the fact that he isn’t an overly-physical forward should be a contributing factor to his continued effectiveness during his deal.
The 2017-2018 season was a good one for JVR. He produced the most goals in a season for his career (thus far). He scores goals in a variety of ways: snap shot, wrister, slap shot, tips/deflections, etc. The stats in this article are primarily Per 60 minutes of ice time. Per 60 stats highlight how well player’s perform in the ice time alotted to them. Let’s see how effective JVR was in the four most common game states.
5v5: Goals, Shots, Scoring Chances, Per 60
JVR excelled at 5v5 this past season. These percentiles are calculated for the forwards who played at least 900 minutes at 5v5. All told, 204 forwards played at least 900 minutes at 5v5 (per NaturalStatTrick). Van Riemsdyk’s performance via goals, scoring chances, and high-danger chance generation are up there with some of the best forwards in the NHL.
Even-Strength: Goals, Shots, Scoring Chances, Per 60
159 forwards, JVR included, played 1000 or more minutes at even-strength. JVR’s goal scoring and scoring chance generation ability shone brightly. 5v5 and even-strength scoring has been the Flyers bugaboo for a few seasons in a row now. Luckily for them, van Riemsdyk has produced quite a few goals at even-strength over the past six seasons with the Leafs. If you’re sensing a bit of a pattern here, you aren’t alone. JVR’s goal scoring doesn’t discriminate when it comes to specific game states.
Power Play: Goals, Shots, Scoring Chances, Per 60
158 Forwards played at least 100 minutes on the Power Play. Van Riemsdyk just so happens to be a part of that group. Similar to Wayne Simmonds, James van Riemsdyk’s bread and butter is his work on the power play. His shot generation, scoring chance generation, and high-danger (from the slot) scoring chance generation are particularly of note here. The 99th percentile, in any statistic, is first-rate. Scoring on the power play is an elusive skill. The Flyers are fortunate to now possess two players in Simmonds and van Riemsdyk’s abilities. The addition of Van Riemsdyk should improve the Flyers 15th ranked power play from a year ago.
All-Situations: Goals, Shots, Scoring Chances, Per 60
All-situations alludes to all play during regulation and overtime. Van Riemsdyk played 1200 minutes in all-situations. Among the 162 other forwards who played at least 1200 minutes, JVR’s production is noteworthy. The only relevant metric where he didn’t completely pace the field was in shots per 60.
5v5 Advanced Stats
JVR’s underlying numbers during 5v5 play are highlighted here. Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic formulated a statistic for hockey called Game Score. A catch-all stat for single game productivity is very useful when analyzing a player’s specific impact on the game. To that end, JVR graded out generously. His performance by individual expected goals for is especially notable. Moreover, Van Riemsdyk’s Shot differential/quality-weighted shot differential output are also of note.
Goals Above Replacement/Wins Above Replacement
Last Word’s Chace McCallum recently introduced his metric that analyzes the ways in which players contribute to wins for their teams. The above graphic is from a wonderful viz by Bill Comeau which highlights this stat in a fun way. The goal was to isolate van Riemsdyk’s rank among other left wings in the league. Only 11 left wings performed better than JVR in this metric. He contributed wins to his team at a high level.
Potential Flies in the Ointment?
Another viz by Bill Comeau highlights a possible issue that adds some context to his play last year. Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock deployed Van Riemsdyk with kid gloves during the 2017-2018 season. More specifically, Babcock sheltered him in quality of competition, and zone starts primarily in the offensive zone. Those factors may be a contributing factor to JVR’s great play. Another thing to consider is his penchant to take too many penalties and his relative lack of assists. The Flyers penalty kill has been an issue for years now. The fewer penalties taken, the better.
In like manner, van Riemsdyk hasn’t always been the most willing backchecker. However, JVR’s defensive stats (i.e. CA/60, SCA/60, HDCA/60, & xGA/60) have been respectable the past few seasons. He may not ever be a great defensive forward, but he has taken some strides to improve his game defensively.
One more issue to point out is Van Riemsdyk’s lack of assists. They really aren’t too big of an issue though. Goal-scoring, shoot-first wingers tend to not put up many assists. Fortunately for him, JVR will most likely start off playing on a line with Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek. Those two are adept distrubtors and Van Riemsdyk stands to benefit greatly.
Realistic Expectations for the 2018-2019 Season
It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possiblity to expect a 30 goal, 55-60 point season out of James van Riemsdyk. Those numbers will be doable if he plays with solid linemates like Patrick and Voracek. Significant power play time would also boost his numbers. It should be interesting to see what JVR brings to the table this upcoming season.
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