After James van Riemsdyk was selected by the Flyers with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft, most expected the forward to quickly embark on a professional career. Instead, he spent two seasons playing at the University of New Hampshire.

Chicago selected Patrick Kane at No. 1 that year, and the winger has had two productive seasons with the Blackhawks.

The 20-year-old van Riemsdyk, who totaled 28 goals and 46 assists in 67 games with the Wildcats, said that college was something he was eager to experience.

"It was really beneficial," he said. "I got the opportunity to step right in and play a big role on the team from my freshman year on. I was able to play in a lot of different situations: power play, penalty kill, extra attacker.

"This past season, I played center for the whole year. That was a learning experience because I had played wing since peewees and squirts."

Van Riemsdyk, known to family and friends as JVR, and about 30 other players took part in the Flyers' annual summer-prospect camp last week at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. His goal, after playing in 11 games last season for the AHL Phantoms, is to make the cut in training camp and begin the 2009-10 campaign with the Flyers.

"There's some opportunity now, with some of the moves the team made in the off-season, for the young guys to maybe step up and take one of those spots," he said. "I just want to have a great summer and be physically and mentally ready for camp."

With the Phantoms, van Riemsdyk played in seven regular-season games and four Calder Cup playoff contests. He registered a goal and an assist.

Of the jump from college hockey to the AHL, the 6-foot-3 211-pounder said: "The biggest difference I noticed was the positioning of players. Everyone was always in position.

"In college, guys would kind of run around a bit and look for the big hit. With the Phantoms, I never saw any guys out of position and trying to hammer someone. If the hit is there, they'll take it. But they're not going out of their way to do something like that. The players are smarter and more composed."

Van Riemsdyk will likely need some more AHL seasoning this season, but Flyers coach John Stevens sees a lot of potential in the No. 2 overall pick.

"From a skill-set standpoint, he's a big guy that skates well, he's got good hands, he's got good hockey intelligence, and he's been here working hard all summer," the coach said. "We're anxious to see him perform and to see what level he can get to in the pro game."

His detractors say he lacks toughness for size. But van Riemsdyk said he does not have to be a bruiser to be productive in the NHL.

"Obviously, I'm not going to be a guy that's going to go out there and bash people's heads in," he said. "That's not my strength as a hockey player. There are different ways to be tough. You don't have to fight to be tough. Look at a player like [Flyers center] Mike Richards. His toughness comes from how hard he plays the game.

"If people are looking for me to be a fighter, they're going to be disappointed. That's not my game. But I play hard, fight through checks, play in front of the net, and get to the dirty areas of the rink. I pride myself on those things - and doing them well."

Said Stevens: "To me, being a tough player is all about being competitive. It's about winning puck battles and winning physical battles. And James certainly seems like he's willing to do that. I'm optimistic that he'll do fine."

Van Riemsdyk grew up in Middletown in central New Jersey. He was a big New York Rangers fan, often hopping a train to Madison Square Garden to watch the Blueshirts play.

His favorite player as a youngster? Rangers left winger Adam Graves, who played 10 seasons in New York and finished his career in 2003 with 329 goals and 287 assists. "He was a left winger, too, scored a lot of goals, played hard out there, and was a good role model," van Riemsdyk said.

In two seasons with the Blackhawks, the 20-year-old Kane, a 5-10, 175-pound right winger, has racked up 46 goals and 96 assists.

"To see someone like Kane, who was picked just ahead of me, have success at that level gives me the confidence that I will be ready to take advantage of the opportunity when I get it," van Riemsdyk said.