(Voorhees, NJ) – It began with the rookie game almost two weeks ago.
On September 11 at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone
, forward James van Riemsdyk
dominated. Scoring four times and adding a beautiful assist, the 20-year-old first round pick from 2007 was easily the best player on the ice in a 7-3 win over the Washington Capitals rookies.
Of course, that was a game that featured mostly prospects and very few NHL-ready players. How van Riemsdyk would play in the main training camp would determine his fate in terms of making the Flyers’ opening night roster, which few people expected would happen, as most players these days need some seasoning in the minors before making the jump to the pro level.
|James van Riemsdyk has three goals and an assist in four preseason games so far. (photo by Jack Cassidy) |
There is still a good chance van Riemsdyk will begin the season with the Adirondack Phantoms, but he’s certainly not making it easy for the Flyers to decide whether or not he stays or goes to the American Hockey League club in upstate New York. He tallied two more goals in Tuesday night’s game against Detroit at the Wachovia Center in a 5-2 win for the home team.
In today’s NHL, though, just putting the puck in the net is not always enough to stick around. Flyers coach John Stevens put out that reminder after Wednesday’s practice.
“We were concerned about how competitive [van Riemsdyk] could be in an NHL setting, and he’s certainly been all that we hoped he would be,” said Stevens. “He’s got to show that he can play without the puck. I think it’s pretty obvious what he can do when he has the puck, he just has to make sure he continues to get better without the puck. He has at this point.
“We’re going to spend some extra time going over some things and making sure it’s clear in his mind, but he just needs to keep going the way he’s going.”
Stevens was asked flat-out if he thinks van Riemsdyk is NHL-ready.
“I think it still remains to be seen. Right now, it looks like he’s awfully close,” he said. “We’re only a little over a week into training camp here and we’re excited what he’s been able to do, and rightfully so. So far, he’s made a very good account of himself.”
Van Riemsdyk, who played Tuesday night’s game on a line with Claude Giroux
and Mika Pyorala, appreciates the trust Stevens has shown in him so far. He also said that he thinks he has improved in each of the four preseason games, tallying three goals and an assist over that span.
“Obviously with each game I’ve just felt more and more comfortable and Coach Stevens has shown some trust in me that he’s put me out there with some really high-quality players,” said van Riemsdyk after the game on Tuesday. “It’s my job to just go out there and make the most of that opportunity. I’ve been put in this position to play with some great players and I’ve got to just keep playing well.”
Van Riemsdyk and Giroux, who had two assists Tuesday, will likely get another chance to play together again on Thursday when Philadelphia hosts the New Jersey Devils (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, Tickets
). Stevens was happy with what he saw of that pair on Tuesday, and wants to see it some more.
“I like the way they played together. You have a real capable playmaker in Claude and a guy who reads the play extremely well off the puck in James and who gets to the net. It’s not surprising they have chemistry.”
It’s a good sign for James that he’s developed some chemistry with Giroux, who already has a roster spot locked up. As would be expected, van Riemsdyk entered camp with the goal of making the team.
“I obviously want to make it as difficult as possible for them to send me down.”
He’s doing a fine job of that so far.Emery Again Thursday
Stevens announced after Wednesday’s practice that Ray Emery would once again play the entire game on Thursday. Emery was steady against the Red Wings in his first full preseason game, stopping 28 of 30 shots. He had no chance on the second goal, which was a slam-dunk for Detroit’s Kris Newbury.
“We want to get him back in the net and get him playing time,” said Stevens. “I think it’s important to stretch him out now, where he’s got to focus and concentrate for the full 60 minutes and get used to playing full games.”
Emery is also pleased with how he has felt so far after a year removed from the NHL. He spent last season playing in Russia.
“Well, I’ll take the week and a half we have left here [in camp] or whatever it is, but I feel good,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “Being a goalie, not playing for a few months in the summer, there are things that you can only practice in a game. So, you just have to make the most of the games you have remaining, and hope you are ready for the season. But as far as it goes right now, I feel good.”
Stevens did not reveal his full lineup for the game, but it is expected that Danny Briere
and Simon Gagne will be among the participants.