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Silber: Trevor Van Riemsdyk Emerging Into X-Factor On Capitals Blue Line

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Capitals defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk

ARLINGTON, V.A. — Back in 2020-21, Washington Capitals blueliner Trevor van Riemsdyk found himself skating regularly with the extras and taxi squad. Due to the team’s depth on the blue line, TVR was mainly a healthy scratch and seventh defenseman skating in just 20 games and spending most of his time using extended practices as his games. Now, he’s arguably one of the team’s biggest assets on the blue line.

Despite not playing much in his first year in the District, TVR’s work ethic and strong play when he was dressed caught the eye of Peter Laviolette and general manager Brian MacLellan. The Capitals rewarded Van Riemsdyk with a two-year extension and decided he would be one of the three blueliners protected in the expansion draft.

“When you’re out for a little bit and you haven’t played — and he was out quite a bit — everything about him was the way things should be done,” Laviolette said of TVR toward the end of the season. “He worked hard every day, he never complained, he was a great teammate — he’s an extremely capable player; we just didn’t get him in there. He came back into the lineup and he was a really major contributor.”

Ultimately, going into 2021-22, Van Riemsdyk got a bigger role and regular ice time with Brenden Dillon dealt to Winnipeg and Zdeno Chara also departing to join the Islanders. From the get-go, TVR took his opportunity and ran with it. With Washington needing more depth on the left side, he stepped in willingly and played on his offside for the majority of the season, skating mainly with Justin Schultz.

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Through 72 games, TVR dished a goal and 16 assists for a new career-high in helpers and points. He was a shot-blocking machine, leading the club with 129 blocks at all strengths. Out of the six regular blueliners, he had the least amount of giveaways (19). Also, his xGA (38.48) was the lowest of the six regular blueliners. Then, in the playoffs, van Riemsdyk dished three points in six games.

TVR also stepped up as a major asset on the penalty kill, skating 191:28 minutes for the team on the PK over the course of the season. He ranked second in total shorthanded TOI behind only Nick Jensen, who played in seven more games than Van Riemsdyk this season. TVR still led Washington in shorthanded ATOI (2:39).

“He seems to play well with everyone,” Laviolette said of Van Riemsdyk, adding that he was “rock solid.”

For TVR, he said his eight years in the league and continued education have helped him thrive and continue to improve at the highest level. The 6-3, 191-pound blueliner also said that he has embraced his role as a versatile blueliner and that working with Laviolette has helped him break out.

“As the years [have] gone on, I felt more and more comfortable,” van Riemsdyk said, noting, “[Hjalmarsson’s] one of the best to probably ever play on his offside pretty much mainly and to make plays there. There’s stuff I enjoy more on the offside and stuff that may be a little different. I wouldn’t say necessarily harder, just different. You got to position yourself and it’s something as you get more reps in, it becomes more natural.

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“It’s been great [with Laviolette]. He’s a great coach, he’s great with the X’s and O’s and he’s great at all the motivational stuff and he’ll let you know what he expects of you, and I think that’s all you can really ask for,” he added. “He’s done a great job with our group, he’s been awesome.”

Going into next year, TVR will likely face a similar scenario to this past year. Justin Schultz is an unrestricted free agent, and given his high cap hit and young blueliners waiting for their NHL opportunity, he could be on the way out. Michal Kempny and Matt Irwin are also UFAs. Taking that into account, TVR will likely not only get more responsibility but potentially a chance to play on his natural right side alongside one of the team’s up-and-coming defensemen (Lucas Johansen and Alex Alexeyev appear to be the next in line, and both are lefties).

Overall, TVR is making his impact known for the Capitals, and with the blue line facing more questions with regard to the future, expect him to continue to grow as a reliable defender. He’s a cheap option and also brings a lot to the table off the ice.

“[The group] something I’m proud to be a part of. It’s something that I know a lot of guys take pride in, and I feel that it’s very important,” van Riemsdyk said. “I’m just one of them. Many guys here do a lot to help raise that awareness and do the right things.”

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