When the Flyers had their worst season in franchise history two years ago, we all knew that, as much as it sucked, we'd get that great prize that every bad team gets to look forward to: an early draft choice.
Our prize was Middletown, NJ native James van Riemsdyk, who the Flyers took with the second-overall pick in the 2007 draft. The strong left winger is now a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, and his play at UNH has been more than impressive. In his freshman season last year, Riemer was third on the Wildcats in scoring, with 11 goals and 23 assists totaling 34 points. The two players who finished ahead of him were seniors, and with their graduation this season the Flyer prospect has taken over his team. In just 17 games he has 26 points, just five behind the nations' best scorer, Brian Leitch of Quinnipiac, who has 31.
Riemer has taken his hot college play to the international ranks as well. In the recently completed World Junior Championships, he was Team USA's second-leading scorer, notching six goals and four assists in just six games. While the US finished a disappointing fifth in the tournament, van Riemsdyk scored a beautiful (not to mention ballsy) OT-game winner in the final game against the Czechs.YouTube, with hat tips to Puck Daddy and The 700 Level.
But despite all of van Riemsdyk's apparent accomplishments as a college and international player thus far, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren doesn't seem happy.
Since he has not signed a contract, JVR has the liberty to decide when he leaves college and joins the Flyers organization. While the players sandwiched around Riemer in the draft, Patrick Kane and Kyle Turris, are playing large roles with the teams that selected them, JVR has opted to continue with college hockey.
The Flyers knew he was going to play at least one season with UNH when they selected him, but Holmgren lobbied him to join the Flyers following his freshman year.
"We tried to sign him last summer," Holmgren told the Daily News. "We tried to get him to come out and at the end of the day he's a college athlete, a student-athlete, and he thought he was better off going back. We said, 'That's fine, we'll support your decision.'"
Riemer seems happy with his choice.
"It was definitely the right move coming back to UNH this year, van Riemsdyk said this past week at the WJC. "I wasn't ready [for the NHL]. It has given me a lot of confidence."
But while it appears to everybody (including himself) that van Riemsdyk made the right decision, Holmgren doesn't think so.
"I still think he would have been better off if he had come out last year," said Holmgren. "The environment he's in now, it's different. He's a good player in college hockey and it might be time for him to move on. I think James is talented. He's going to be a good player. Is it going to take him a little longer now that he spent another year in college? I don't know. "
Reading between the lines a bit, it seems as though Homer believes that that JVR isn't being challenged enough in the NCAA, which could certainly be true. But the GM also knows that the Flyers don't have as much say in the matter as perhaps they'd like.
"I will go back to the Flyers and see how I fit, and we will go from there, " JVR says.
How does he fit? Well, just for fun, how's this look in 08/09?
But as Holmgren says, "It's going to be up to him."