With all the young talent in Toronto, there's one veteran forward who is better than you think.
It’s time to give credit where credit is well overdue. Say hello to one of the most chronically underappreciated assets in the fantasy world: James van Riemsdyk. Drafted second overall in 2007 behind some guy named Patrick Kane, van Riemsdyk has consistently flown under the radar year in and year out never really getting the pat on the back he deserves. Although never reaching the lofty point totals of Kane, van Riemsdyk has been a shining example of quality depth options for years and here’s why.
The consistency of van Riemsdyk over the past five years is something all fantasy owners should covet. Quintessentially, van Riemsdyk is a locked in 30-goal, 30-assist player each season, so it’s dumbfounding that his ADP on ESPN last year was 114th overall. In a 12-team league that’s Round 11 territory for a 30-goal scorer, whereas the likes of Max Pacioretty went 49th overall on average. This is not to take a jab at Max, who is a phenomenal player but more so to show just how underrated van Riemsdyk continues to be. Looking at his point-per-game percentage and shot totals in the past four years speaks volumes to the essentially guaranteed production you are getting from van Riemsdyk. Twice in these four years he replicated the same PntPG% of 0.76 another year deviated .03% lower with 2014-15 being the lowly outlier, but still not bad. Shot totals are excellent consistently running above 200 no problem, and that leads to the goal production, which you can pencil him in for 25 at least in a full season.
It can be argued that van Riemsdyk flying under the radar is related to his situation in Toronto. Ask anyone about the players that stir the drink in Toronto and he’s more than likely not named in the first three maybe four names. With the Leafs youth movement the 28 year old “fossil” van Riemsdyk is cast in the shadow behind the kids and that seems to be just fine for him. Since coming to Toronto, unfortunately van Riemsdyk’s ATOI has dropped by almost two minutes year by year to last season’s career low average of 15:53. For those who count this as a category this is certainly not wanted, but the production remains the same despite clearly becoming a depth piece instead of a core component.
Mike Babcock is also doing his part in maintaining the consistency of van Riemsdyk. Looking at line combinations for the past season you can see that Babcock likes to roll the same players together, in van Riemsdyk, Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak’s case much more often than not. This leads to the creation of a beautiful thing between players called chemistry. There honestly may not be a more consistent deployment in the game today. The immediate emergence of Marner helps too one would surmise bringing elite vision to the line padding those goal totals for van Riemsdyk. It is not out of question to see Marner up his output this coming season, which makes van Riemsdyk once again an attractive option to be had at a more than likely reasonable price.
Any and all who won championships in their league this past season know van Riemsdyk was the MVP in the final match with six goals in his last seven games. There is no reason to believe the scenario is going to change in Toronto. Babcock rolls with what works and the improvements were stark in one season. At arguably the peak of his prime, van Riemsdyk needs to be on your radar as a consistent top-75 fantasy asset. More than deserving of his average Round 10/11 pick position in the season prior, value him above this before another savvy owner moves in.