Leafs at the World Juniors: James Van Riemsdyk, 2007-09

Of all the current Leafs to suit up at the World Juniors, James van Riemsdyk may have had the biggest impact. Van Riemsdyk played for his hometown USA at the 2007, 2008, and 2009 World Juniors, exhibiting what established him as one of the game’s top prospects at the time. 

The Stats:

2007: As a 17 year old, van Riemsdyk scored just one goal for the team in seven games, with likely minimal ice time.

2008: Van Riemsdyk produced in a massive way, as he led the tournament in scoring with five goals and 11 points, landing on the tournament All-Star team as one of the top three forwards in the tournament.

2009: In a rare third appearance at the World Juniors, JVR came back just as strong as his previous year, upping his goal total to six while also adding four assists in six games.

The Result(s):

2007: While JVR himself wasn’t a shooter, he was on the losing bench for what has to be one of the greatest hockey shootouts of all time.

Van Riemsdyk and the Americans then beat the Russians 2-1 in the Bronze Medal game. Canada went on to win the gold medal.

2008: Van Riemsdyk and his American teammates once again fell to Canada in the semi-finals, but this time in a less dramatic 4-1 loss, where he scored the lone American goal. They then fell 4-2 to Russia in the bronze medal game.

2009: JVR’s strong efforts again weren’t enough to push his team to victory, as they were upset by 5-3 Slovakia in the quarter-finals. Tomas Tatar scored two goals in the game, while current Leaf Richard Panik scored the winner. JVR did manage a goal in the final two minutes of the game, but the three goal deficit was ultimately too big to overcome. In the fifth place game against the Czech Republic, van Riemsdyk scored the overtime winner on a highlight reel goal, between the legs, 2:49 into overtime

While the USA didn’t medal in 2009, they did play against Canada on New Years’ Eve in another modern classic, which featured a 3-0 American lead in the first period result in a 7-4 Canadian win. Van Riemsdyk was held pointless in the game, but was notably involved in a post-goal scrum (here around 1:35) that resulted in bad blood between the two countries. However, it would be the last time the two teams would meet in the tournament, as dreams of another USA-Canada medal round game for a third straight year were not realized.

Key Teammates:

2007: Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson, and Jack Johnson.

Erik Johnson led the team in points with ten, while Patrick Kane had nine. Of the three young American stars, Jack Johnson was the lowest drafted, at third overall in 2005 behind Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan. Kane was given a much larger role on the team in contrast to van Riemsdyk, with both draft-eligible 17 year-olds at the time.

2008: Kyle Okposo, Max Pacioretty.

There’s defintely no shortage of American winger talent from this era, with both being top-line wingers in today’s NHL. 

2009: Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Tyler Johnson.

Another group of talented defencemen. The Americans really like picking guys named Johnson, for some reason.  

In JVR’s own words, here’s what he remembers from the tournament.

Speaking of Kane and Van Riemsdyk, I just really like these photos from the 2007 draft, where they went 1-2:

The pair would meet again as rivals in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final (where JVR was on the ice for Patrick Kane’s famous Cup-winning goal in OT) , as well as teammates on the 2014 Olympic team.

The scouts’ take:

The young winger earned his way onto the American roster as a 17 year old, but saw limited action in his first year on the team. However, this didn’t hinder van Riemsdyk much as he still went 2nd overall to Philadelphia in the draft. JVR’s combination of size and speed was as impressive than as it was now, and he was heavily relied on as a leader in his final two tournaments. Initially on the United States National Under-18 development team during his first WJC tournament, by staying at the University of New Hampshire for two years, JVR was able to complete the rare three-year run for the American team. As JVR’s currently on pace for his third 30-goal season in the NHL, it’s safe to say his offensive brilliance at the IIHF tournament wasn’t a flash in the pan.