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Inside the Flyers: Drafted No. 2, will he be the one?

OTTAWA, Ontario - Pete Mahovlich, Brad Park, and Marcel Dionne. Brendan Shanahan, Chris Pronger, and Patrick Marleau. Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, and Bobby Ryan.

OTTAWA, Ontario - Pete Mahovlich, Brad Park, and Marcel Dionne. Brendan Shanahan, Chris Pronger, and Patrick Marleau. Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, and Bobby Ryan.

What do the above stars - some from the past, some from the present - have in common with Flyers prospect James van Riemsdyk?

All were No. 2 overall selections in their respective draft classes.

No one is saying van Riemsdyk, who is known as JVR, will be nearly as productive, but he took a step in the right direction by bypassing his final two years at the University of New Hampshire and signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Flyers on Wednesday.

"It's about time," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was undoubtedly thinking.

Holmgren had been unsuccessful in trying to get van Riemsdyk, a power forward, to skip his sophomore season at New Hampshire and turn pro.

That opened the Internet chatroom floodgates, and many criticized JVR for not beginning his pro journey earlier. They were being short-sighted.

How can you get angry at someone for wanting to experience college for a couple of years before going to work?

How can you get angry at someone who, now that he has signed, has a decent chance to play for the Flyers some time next season at the ripe old age of 20?

How can you get angry at someone who was so excited to play in his first pro game that he mistakenly packed two different pairs of shoes en route to Philadelphia?

"I had two right shoes that I wore to the game," van Riemsdyk sheepishly admitted before being held scoreless while debuting for the AHL Phantoms in their 6-3 win over Albany on Wednesday. "So that was kind of embarrassing, but it was a great experience out there."

The players in the AHL are bigger, stronger, and faster, and play their position more soundly than those on the collegiate level. Van Riemsdyk, 19, noticed the speed difference in his debut.

"But as the game wore on, I got more and more comfortable," he said.

When you listen to the 6-foot-3, 205-pound van Riemsdyk, you get the impression he needed to play two years in college to boost his confidence, to feel he was ready for the pro ranks. He has gained 10 pounds since he was drafted No. 2 in 2007 - Chicago selected Patrick Kane at No. 1, and the winger has had two productive seasons with the Blackhawks - and he is a much more well-rounded player than at the start of his collegiate career.

JVR detractors say he plays too soft.

Holmgren disagrees and says van Riemsdyk reminds him of a former Flyer great.

"I don't like to compare, but he has a little bit of John LeClair in him," Holmgren said.

No one is expecting van Riemsdyk to turn into LeClair, a possible Hall of Famer. But they are expecting him to eventually be a top-six forward who will be a fixture for years to come.

Van Riemsdyk's Flyers' contract starts in 2009-10, meaning he can't play for the team in their final regular-season games or this year's playoffs. He will play for the Phantoms for the rest of this season and try to make the Flyers in training camp. In all probability, he will need a little more AHL seasoning next season - like Claude Giroux this season - before joining the Flyers around January 2010.

The last week or so, van Riemsdyk said, has "basically been an emotional roller coaster. The ultimate high – winning the first NCAA tournament game - to the ultimate low – with our season ending - and then obviously a huge thrill and huge dream come true with signing with the Flyers and coming here to play."

Van Riemsdyk, who grew up in Middletown in Central Jersey, improved in each of his seasons at New Hampshire and finished his career with 28 goals and 74 points in 67 games. Still, he was only a second-team all-Hockey East Conference selection this season, an indication there is room for improvement.

Playing for the Phantoms - the jump from college to the AHL may be the most challenging part of his journey - should help him get a head start toward next season.

"I think it's going to be huge," van Riemsdyk said. "Being around this atmosphere is only going to help me and it will give me something to fuel the fire over the summer to just help me keep getting better."

Whether he likes it or not, van Riemsdyk will always be compared to Chicago's talented Kane. The Flyers were the NHL's worst team in 2006-07, but they lost the lottery and the Blackhawks took Kane No. 1 overall in the draft, leaving JVR for the Flyers.

If he one day is comparable to some of the other players taken at No. 2, he will be a pretty good consolation prize.

Spectrum flashback. Rick MacLeish became the first Flyer to ever score four goals in a Spectrum game, performing the feat in an 8-2 win over the Islanders on Feb. 18, 1973. You could look it up.

Inside the Flyers:

Read Sam Carchidi's Flyers blog, Broad Street Bull, at

Blog response of the week

Subject: The Flyers' inconsistent play.

Posted by Snap Crackle Propp 01:41 p.m., 04/02/2009

Look at possible playoff matchups - if the Flyers get in - and what do you see? Right now, there's overwhelming potential for a first-round exit. Pittsburgh and Carolina are playing exponentially better. A series vs. the Rangers would probably be a seven-game struggle. The only matchup I would feel good about is against Montreal, which is a long shot anyway. There are just too many nights when the Flyers are easy to play against.EndText