James van Riemsdyk
, the second pick of the 2007 Entry Draft, felt the time was right to make the jump to the professional ranks.
Tuesday, van Riemsdyk, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound left wing, signed a multi-year, entry-level contract that starts next season. He also signed an amateur tryout contract that allows him to play immediately for the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms.
Van Riemsdyk, who recently completed his sophomore season at the University of New Hampshire with a team-leading 40 points in 36 games, left campus Monday night and arrived in New Jersey at 2 a.m. Tuesday. He'll be in the lineup for the Phantoms for their game Tuesday against the Albany River Rats.
"I'm here so I'll get thrown right into it and I wouldn't have it any other way," van Riemsdyk told NHL.com. "I know it's a huge challenge and jump from college hockey to the AHL, but I'm excited. This is a day I have been dreaming about ever since I got drafted by the Flyers. It was tough to leave UNH, but I felt this would be the best for me as a hockey player, because at the end of the day, my goal is to play in the NHL and I'm now moving one step closer to achieving that goal."
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren
is excited to finally have van Riemsdyk officially on board.
"We are pleased to have James in the fold and look forward to monitoring his development more closely," said Holmgren. "It was a difficult decision for James to leave school, but we both believed that it was in his best interest to do so. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the University of New Hampshire, and in particular coach Dick Umile and his staff for not only their understanding but their dedicated work with James over the last two seasons."
Van Riemsdyk finished eighth in Hockey East in scoring with 40 points. He was tied for seventh in goals, with 17,, and finished first with 4 shorthanded goals. He was named to the All-Hockey East Second Team at the end of the regular season.
The 19-year-old native of Middletown, N.J., is now gearing up for the next stage of his hockey career.
"Obviously, this is a thrill of a lifetime," van Riemsdyk said. "After giving it another go-round in the World Juniors and then after the season I had at UNH, I just thought it was time to challenge myself a little bit more and beginning my professional career against grown men at this stage can only benefit me. I know I am going to have to work hard and basically that is what I am expecting. I am going to work hard and learn a lot from this experience."
While there's no denying his skills with the puck, there are those who claim van Riemsdyk has yet to exhibit a physical side to his game. He feels that will come with time, which is another reason he's making the jump at this point.
"I know it's a huge challenge and jump from college hockey to the AHL, but I'm excited. This is a day I have been dreaming about ever since I got drafted by the Flyers. It was tough to leave UNH, but I felt this would be the best for me as a hockey player, because at the end of the day, my goal is to play in the NHL and I'm now moving one step closer to achieving that goal."
-- James van Riemsdyk
"Everyone has their little niche that they do and that comes with being comfortable with your role and I'm a bigger guy and still growing and am just looking to become more comfortable with that side of my game," van Riemsdyk said. "As far as going in there and crashing and banging and doing that stuff, I can obviously do a little bit of work with that, but there's a lot of different roles in hockey and it's just a matter of picking the right role as a player."
Van Riemsdyk played in his third World Junior Championship this year in Ottawa, where he recorded 4 goals and 10 points as the U.S. finished fifth. At the '08 WJC in the Czech Republic, van Riemsdyk led all players with 11 points, but the United State lost to Russia in the bronze-medal game. He had 1 goal in seven games at the '07 WJC in Sweden as the U.S. finished third.
He admitted participating in the Flyers' rookie camp in August also was beneficial.
"That was another huge step forward," he said. "Just having the change to condition with the guys and skating with them was great experience. I'm looking forward to getting back into it next summer and learning even more."
As a freshman at UNH, van Riemsdyk recorded 11 goals and 34 points in 31 games, finishing third on the team in scoring and tied for 13th in Hockey East. He was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and was fourth in the nation in scoring by a rookie.
Prior to joining the University of New Hampshire, van Riemsdyk played for the United States National Team Development Program in 2006-07, where he recorded team-highs of 33 goals, 63 points, 81 penalty minutes, 11 power-play goals and 6 game-winning goals for the under-18 squad.
"I called my mom and dad and they're extremely excited, as am I," van Riemsdyk said. "My dad will be in attendance for the Phantoms game tonight. It's going to be memorable."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com