With 2018-19 Fading, at Least Flyers Are Seeing the 2019-20 Possibilities With James Van Riemsdyk

At this point, the Flyers are in silver-linings territory.

One overwhelming positive the club can take solace in as the postseason hopes fade is the production of James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers' five-year, $35 million man.

The focus is starting to shift to 2019-20, an important season for general manager Chuck Fletcher as he tries to capitalize on the team's core and push it back into the playoffs.

And van Riemsdyk is proving to Fletcher just how big time he can be in that win-now movement.

After putting up a hat trick against his old team in Friday night's crushing 7-6 loss to the Maple Leafs, van Riemsdyk has 18 goals in 28 games since Jan. 10. Only one NHL player has more goals over that span: Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl, who has 19 and is the league's second-leading goal scorer.

Van Riemsdyk has 27 points in those 28 games and is projected to finish with 29 goals, despite missing 16 games from Oct. 9 to Nov. 13 because of a lower-body ailment. He suffered the injury in the first period of the season's second game.

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Understandably, it took van Riemsdyk some time to find his rhythm when he got back into the swing of things. Not only was he trying to catch up, but van Riemsdyk has also played on different lines, in different roles and under two head coaches. Prior to this 18-goal run, he had six markers in 25 games following his return on Nov. 15.

If van Riemsdyk doesn't miss 16 games, which also impacted his start, he would be looking at breaking his career high of 36 goals, set last season at 28 years old.

Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon, who was an assistant with van Riemsdyk's Maple Leafs from 2011 to 2014, had a talk with JVR before the Flyers' 2-1 win on Jan. 10, trying to help jump-start his winger.

Van Riemsdyk then scored in that victory and has been on a tear ever since.

"That's professional sports right there, there should be dialogue between your coaches and player, that's the only way you get growth," van Riemsdyk said Jan. 10. "For me, I'm in a new situation, new team, and I want to try to get my bearings right. There are always some things you can clarify, some things become a little second nature. When you're playing in a certain place for a long time, things become second nature that they may want you to do a little differently here, so there's been good communication and dialogue about some of that stuff. 

"I've had a good relationship with Gordo since I played for him in Toronto and some USA hockey stuff, so I appreciate him taking some time to talk me through some things he wanted to see and some different things we're trying to do."

The thought of a healthy van Riemsdyk, with no growing pains, over the course of a full season in 2019-20 should excite the Flyers.

Fletcher will have a fair share of work heading into his first offseason with the Flyers.

But he knows what he has in van Riemsdyk.

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