Q&A with James vanRiemsdyk

By Simon Richard

James vanRiemsdyk, a native of Middletown, New Jersey, was part of history at the NHL 2007 draft when he was selected second overall by the Philadelphia Flyers just after Patrick Kane. It was the first time that two American-born hockey players were selected first and second overall.  

The 6’3 and 190-pound forward was named to the all-tournament team of the 2006 World Under-17 hockey Challenge. He was also named the MVP of the 2007 IIHF Under-18 Championship as well as the Top Forward of that event.

VanRiemsdyk was part of the U.S. team that played at the 2007 World Junior Championship in Sweden.

Right now he is part of the 2007 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp being held in Lake Placid, NY. VanRiemsdyk is having a good camp so far, recording three points (2 goals, 1 assist) in three games played against teams from Sweden and Finland.

Hockey’s Future spoke with him at the Olympic Training Center during the camp.

HF: Where and when
did hockey all start for you?
JVR:  My passion for the game goes back when I was 4-5 years old. It started in the local rink near home in New Jersey. The first time I went on the ice I didn’t want to come off. From there, I pretty much wanted to always be on the ice.

HF: You scored an overtime goal at high school that won the New Jersey State title, how was it?
JVR:  That is one of those things I’ll never forget. That is one of the highlights of my youth hockey career. It was just a great thing being on one of the best teams in the state of New Jersey and ending up winning it all. It just was a lot easier to go after and chase my dream after winning the state title.

HF: Have you tried other sports?

JVR:  I played a few other sports like baseball and soccer but nothing as seriously as hockey.

HF: Do you have a role model?
JVR:  I guess I have say my parents [Allison and Frans]. They made a lot of sacrifices for me. My dad has worked pretty hard and went from the bottom to the top in the shipping company he is working for. This is something for which I have a lot of respect.

HF: Where are your parents from?

JVR:  My dad was born in Montreal, he moved to the States at three years old, than went to Holland and came back in USA. My mom is from New York City and moved in Connecticut. They met in college.

HF: Any sisters and brothers?

JVR:  I have two younger brothers. One is a junior in high school and the other will be in the 6th grade next year.

 HF: You have any hobbies?
JVR:  I play some baseball with my friends, I go boating, go to the beach, kind of relax a little bit.

 HF: What is the best decision you have taken so far as a hockey player?

JVR:  Going to the NTDP was the best decision I have made so far. That really helped to improve my game more than anything else.  That is just a great place to go to be a better hockey player. You work pretty hard but you get a lot of results. It helped me a lot to be stronger, more developed and a more all-around player. I can’t say anything against this program.

HF: You were drafted by a CHL team, did you hesitate last year to stay in the NTDP program?
JVR: I was drafted by the Brampton Battalion in the 10th round a couple years ago but I definitely wanted to stay in the NTDP last year. It is just a great thing being part of the U-18 team and playing against U.S. college teams.

HF: Last year, month after month your value was increasing. How did you feel seeing your rank progressing?
JVR:  I really never expected to be in the top three. When I first went to the NTDP program two years ago, I kind of just wanted to get drafted. If you had told me two years ago that I would be selected No. 2 I would have thought that you’re crazy. I never thought this thing could happen. I worked pretty hard for it and now, I start all over again this time to eventually make the Flyers team.

HF: Your performance at the 2007 U-18 was a key point?
JVR:  I thought I had a pretty slow start but as the tournament advanced, I really picked up my game. I knew that my team would need me to have a chance to win it all. I played a better game in the tough situations and I think that it helped my status.

HF: Patrick Kane and you were at the WJC, you were first and second at the draft and both are here in Lake Placid, do you have fun together?
JVR:  We are having a pretty good time. The first time two Americans were selected first and second — it is just unreal to be part of that. Pat is just a great kid. He is such a great hockey player, it is not bad at all to go second.

HF: The WJC, the U-18, the NHL Combine, the NHL draft, the Flyers Development Camp, so many things happened to you in a such a short period of time, do things seem to be going too fast at some point?
JVR:  Yeah it started to be a little difficult at some point. I needed to find a way to relax a little bit, to just refresh my mind and recharge the batteries in order to be ready for this camp and then to go for the next season in New Hampshire.

HF: GM Paul Holmgren compared you to John Leclair and Rick Nash, what do you think about that?
JVR:  These are pretty big names and pretty big shoes to fill. John Leclair is one of the best American hockey players ever playing the game. Rick Nash is a rising star in the league. So, just to be in the same sentence of these names is just an honor. I mean, hopefully one day I can be a successful NHLer but I haven’t been part of it yet.

HF: How did you choose the University of New Hampshire?

JVR:  It came down to be a choice between Michigan and New Hampshire. They both have great programs but I felt I would be more comfortable in New Hampshire. It is closer to my home, I really like their style of play, there is a great coaching staff there and great guys on the team.

HF: Your nickname is Reemer, where does it come from?
JVR:  It started in my high school team when I was a freshman there.  My teammates didn’t really know how to pronounce my last name. I just began that way.

HF: You seem like the kind of kid that every father would like his daughter bring home on a given Sunday afternoon. Do you have any faults?
JVR [smiling]:  I’m a little bit stubborn sometimes.

HF: You played center at the Flyers Development Camp while you used to play as a winger?
JVR:  I haven’t played center for a really long time. That was indeed the first time since I was a peewee. It needed some adjustments to get used to.

HF: How was the experience in Philadelphia?
JVR:  It was great, really great. The people in the organization are fantastic. It was pretty intense. They expect really hard work from the players. I feel that I can really progress and hopefully I that I can crack the line-up soon.

HF: What do you need to improve to be a better hockey player?
JVR:  I have to say my overall conditioning and my strength. Also my skills like my wrist shot, stick handling. I have to be better at skating. You really have to be good at skating to survive in this league. I’m going to work on that in New Hampshire.

HF: When do you think you can join the roster of the Flyers?

JVR:  It will depend on how I progress but hopefully as soon as possible. I’m definitely happy to go to New Hampshire but by no means does it mean I don’t want to make that jump as soon as I can.

HF: What are you going to do in the upcoming weeks?

JVR:  I’ll go home, just work out, keep ready for the next year.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.