Brendan van Riemsdyk is the latest in his family to come up for the draft and is poised to be the third to play for the University of New Hampshire. Here's why he is one to watch.
Brendan van Riemsdyk’s high school season ended in the most bittersweet manner. Sure, his Christian Brothers Academy Colts claimed the New Jersey state title – but they have to share it with Morristown-Beard after tying the Crimson 4-4 in the championship final.
“We only played one overtime and that’s the Jersey rule,” he said. “Pretty brutal.”
But there’s plenty more hockey in store for van Riemsdyk, the youngest brother of Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk and University of New Hampshire defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. Like his siblings, ‘BVR’ is committed to play for the UNH Wildcats in the future, but will likely play at least one more year of junior before heading to Durham. Along with the bloodlines, he had several other reasons to commit to coach Dick Umile’s program.
“I felt comfortable there,” van Riemsdyk said. “That big ice gives you a lot of time to make plays and New Hampshire is an offensive-minded team, which is good for me.”
That may understate the matter. In just 15 games with Christian Brothers, van Riemsdyk racked up 19 goals and 41 points. He also spent time with the U.S. Premier League’s Jersey Hitmen, where he tallied 13 points in 10 games. The big left winger felt like he got the best of both worlds this season.
“The Hitmen, that’s the team that’s going to make you better,” he said. “For Christian Brothers it was a matter of playing for my school. You get to play in front of those big crowds, your classmates get to see you and both my brothers did it; it was a pride thing that was instilled in me.”
Though he’s already 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds – meaning he could end up bigger than JVR – being the youngest brother had its downside when Brendan was growing up.
“There were always battles, for sure,” he said. “I probably got the brunt of it in the early years. There’s less beating on me now and more learning from those guys.”
This is a crucial year for little bro. Brendan is up for the NHL draft and in a wide-open class with very little consensus among scouts, he could be a dark horse pick.
“He thinks the game the right way,” said one scout. “Big kid with great bloodlines – the skating held him back early on.”
As did an illness in his lungs this season. The malady plagued van Riemsdyk early on, causing him to miss a spate of games, but now he has put it behind him and was happy to end the season on the ice with his teammates. He has spoken with a couple NHL teams (Toronto and Chicago), but no matter what happens in June, he’s got the template: JVR went second overall to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009, while middle brother Trevor went undrafted, but will be one of the most coveted college free agents whenever he leaves UNH (he’s a junior right now). And a pattern emerged for Brendan when he looked at his siblings’ paths.
“You can’t stop working hard,” he said. “James was drafted high and never stopped working. Trevor wasn’t drafted at all and he used that as motivation to work harder.”
Trevor will have his pick of teams once he leaves school, so there is the possibility that all three of the boys end up in the same NHL organization. If the Leafs need any freelance scouting, they can just ask their star left winger for a report on the youngest kid.
“It’s exciting to see Brendan starting to come into his own as a player,” said James van Riemsdyk. “He’s got a lot of natural skill and ability, now it’s just about the work he has to put in.”
Considering Brendan looks to JVR as a great NHL model with a similar frame, that shouldn’t be much of an issue.