James van Riemsdyk
Born: May 4, 1989
James van Riemsdyk was born May 4, 1989 in Middletown. He grew up with brothers Trevor and Brendan in eastern Monmouth County during a resurgence in interest in ice hockey, honing his game at the Wall Ice Arena, Ocean Ice Palace and Red Bank Armory ice rink. James distinguished himself at age 4, demonstrating soft hands and incredible stamina. He joined the Brick Hockey Club at age 8, and the team went 42–0 in its first two seasons.
Over the next few years, James improved his skating and scoring instincts. He enrolled at Christian Brothers Academy for high school, joining one of the state’s top prep hockey teams. At age 15, James participated in the USA Hockey festival and opened a lot of eyes as the top player in the tournament. He also led CBA to the state title with 36 goals—including the overtime game-winner against Delbarton in the finals.
After two years playing for the Colts, James was invited to join Team USA’s developmental program in Michigan. He spent the next two years playing for the under-17 and under-18 national squads. At the 2006 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, he helped his team win a silver medal—but more importantly realized he was on par with the top players in the world his age. A year later he led the under-19 squad to a gold medal in Sweden. James was being compared at this point to a young John LeClair.
James was offered a scholarship by the University of New Hampshire. As the NHL Draft approached, rumors began swirling that he might be the #1 overall pick. As it turned out, the Chicago Blackhawks took Patrick Kane instead. The Philadelphia Flyers, picking next, took James #2. It was the first time in history a pair of Americans went 1–2 in the draft.
James played two years for New Hampshire, tallying 74 points in 67 games, before joining the Flyers for the 2009–10 campaign. He registered three assists in his first two NHL games, and scored his first goal on October 24th against the Florida Panthers. During November, James score three game-winning goals for Philadelphia and was named NHL Rookie of the Month. He finished his first season with 15 goals and 20 assists playing on the team’s third line. In the playoffs that spring, James scored his first postseason goal in Game 7 of the conference semifinals against the Bruins. The Flyers went on to win the game and complete an amazing comeback from a 0–3 series deficit.
A year later, James produced more playoff heroics. He scored the deciding goal in Game 7 of the opening round against the Buffalo Sabres, and found the net three times in a four-game sweep of the Bruins in the next round. In all, he scored 7 times in the postseason, adding to the 21 goals he scored in the regular season.
James missed almost half of the 2011–12 season with a broken foot, but returned in time to help Philadelphia in the playoffs. That June, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Luke Schenn, a player he’d faced many times in international competition. While waiting for the lockout-shortened 2012–13 season to begin, James participated in Operation Hat Trick in Atlantic City, a fundraising game for victims of Hurricane Sandy. He also gained new fans after appearing in This Is 40 in the famous nightclub scene with Megan Fox and Leslie Mann.
James had 32 points in 48 games for the Leafs in 2012–13, helping them reach the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Toronto lost to the Bruins in a grueling 7-games series to open the postseason. James scored seven goals against the eventual Stanley Cup champions in seven games. In 2013–14, Toronto fans got to see what James could do in a full season. He had 30 goals and 31 assists—second on the club to Phil Kessel in both categories.Late in the season, Toronto was playing against the Flyers when Tyler Bozak won the opening face-off of the second period and shoveled a pass to James on the left wing. He scored with only 4 seconds elapsed to equal a record for the fastest goal in NHL history, which was shared by Claude Provost and Denis Savard.
James netted his 100th goal as a member of the Leafs in 2016–17—one of 29 he scored on the season. As Toronto completes its rebuilding program behind the ascent of superstarAuston Matthews, James has become a key piece in the team's plans to win a 14th Stanley Cup.