Hindsight is an amazing thing, and allows us to look back and wonder “what could have been.” Though perfection is attempted, scouting and draft selection is far from an exact science and sometimes, it doesn’t work out the way teams – or players – intended. For every Patrick Kane, there is a Patrik Stefan.
Starting this week, we’re looking back at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and asking how it would shake out knowing what we do now. Will the first round remain the same, or will some late-round picks jump up to the top of the board?
On Monday we asked the PHR community to weigh in on who should have been selected first overall in 2007 and after more than 2,100 votes (and probably even before that) the decision is clear. Though he didn’t get quite the 88% that Sidney Crosby came away with for the top honor from our 2005 redraft series, Patrick Kane was still the obvious choice to retain his top spot. Kane earned more than 85% of the votes with no other player earning even 4%. That certainly makes the decision for second a mystery, one that we’ll look at today.
Back in 2007, the Philadelphia Flyers held the second overall pick and decided to take a powerhouse winger from just a couple of hours up the road. Middleton, New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk had been a top prospect for years, though he had had gone a different route than fellow American-born winger Kane. While Kane decided to take his talents to the OHL in his draft year and play for the London Knights, van Riemsdyk stayed with the USNTDP and suited up with future NHL names like Colin Wilson, Jimmy Hayes and Kevin Shattenkirk. The young forward had been committed to the University of New Hampshire for years and wouldn’t join the Flyers organization for another two seasons.
When he did, it took him no time at all to make an impression. Jumping straight to the NHL in the 2009-10 season, van Riemsdyk recorded 15 goals and 35 points in his rookie campaign but finished 11th in Calder Trophy voting—the award went to Tyler Myers, who put up 48 points as a rookie defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres, a total he has never matched. van Riemsdyk was an obvious talent and would record his first 20-goal season the following year, but after a disappointing 43-game season in 2011-12 he found himself on the way to the Toronto Maple Leafs by way of trade. The Flyers would receive 2008 fifth-overall pick Luke Schenn, who had stepped directly into the NHL and was seen as a potential star shutdown defender.
Things didn’t quite work out that way for Schenn, but van Riemsdyk quickly morphed into a top goal-scoring threat for the Maple Leafs. In six years with Toronto the winger recorded 154 goals in 413 games, topping out with 36 in 2017-18. He found his way back to Philadelphia as a free agent last summer, and put up another 27-goal effort in just 66 games. In all, van Riemsdyk ranks sixth among 2007 draftees with 228 goals in his 675-game career and looks like he still has several years of top productivity left. While he hasn’t been the superstar that Kane turned into, he certainly wasn’t a bust with the second overall pick.
That doesn’t mean he was the best available pick though.
With the second pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, who should the Philadelphia Flyers select? Cast your vote below!
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*Tragically, 17th overall pick Alexei Cherepanov died at the age of 19 and would never get a chance to suit up in the NHL. He has not been included in this vote.