On October 10, 2020, the Washington Capitals signed right handed defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to a one year, $800,000 contract. At the time, van Riemsdyk was looked at as a depth signing, likely slotting in below right handed defensemen John Carlson, Justin Schultz, and Nick Jensen on the depth chart.
Van Riemsdyk (TvR) came off of a solid 2020 campaign with division rival Carolina, posting a goal, seven assists, and eight points in 49 games. TvR posted a 50.8 Corsi For percentage for the Hurricanes in 2020, with a majority of his zone starts coming in the defensive zone.
The TvR acquisition was a solid depth signing for the right side of the Capitals’ defense that had it’s fair share of questions entering the season, such as whether or not Schultz could stay healthy over the course of an entire season, or if Nick Jensen could elevate his game to the level he was at in Detroit.
Let’s take a look at TvR’s 2021 campaign by the numbers.
If you missed the other posts in this series on Justin Schultz, Dmitry Orlov, or John Carlson, game score is a metric that Dom Luszczyszyn (now with The Athletic) created to measure the performance of a player in any given game. Here are the stats that Luszczyszyn uses in calculating game score:
- Primary Assists
- Secondary Assists
- Shots on Goal
- Blocked Shots
- Penalty Differential
- 5-on-5 Corsi Differential
- 5-on-5 Goal Differential (you can read more about the Game Score metric’s method here).
Here’s TvR’s 5-on-5 game scores broken down by game over the course of the 2020-21 regular season (click to enlarge):
Obviously, TvR’s game scores are going to look a lot different than the other defensemen we’ve covered in this series. TvR only suited up for 20 games during the 2021 regular season, playing sparingly in February and March. In mid-April, TvR saw much more game action with injuries to John Carlson and Justin Schultz.
The key here is, later in the season (with the increase in ice time), TvR performed at a higher level than earlier in the season. This indicates two things: TvR has the ability to come into games without a lot of previous action and perform at a decent level; and he can play at a top-six defensive level when getting consistent game action.
Ultimately, with TvR’s inexpensive extension signed in March of 2021 (two years with a $950k cap hit), it may make either Nick Jensen or Justin Schultz dispensable in the off-season leading up to the 2021-22 regular season.
Here’s TvR’s Corsi For percentage by game throughout the season (click to enlarge):
TvR had several very strong possession performances at times during the season, with his overall Corsi For percentage for the season hovering at 51.4% during five-on-five play. With regular playing time, as noticed in his game score, he performed considerably well, with only two games with a Corsi For percentage under 50%.
To note, the 0% on March 16th was a game where he had skated 3 shifts at the end of a 3-1 victory against the New York Islanders. This was one of those interesting points in the season where the Capitals were forced to skate 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but Laviolette liked the way the normal pairings were configured, so the seventh defenseman rarely got ice time.
Interestingly enough, the third best pairing overall (100 minutes of ice time minimum) for the Capitals regarding CF% was Brenden Dillon and Trevor van Riemsdyk (53.51%).
Here’s TvR’s expected goals for percentage over the course of the season (click to enlarge):
This is a trend that we’ve seen in the two other metrics by date: with more frequent games played, TvR plays considerably better. The upward trend-line is apparent, and TvR’s average xGF% hovered north of 50%, which is solid for a depth defenseman who did not see a ton of ice time.
Rate Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM)
Here’s how TvR’s RAPM breaks down, courtesy of JFreshHockey:
Overall, the top row of statistics in the above graphic are solid for a third pairing defenseman. We know TvR is not really an offensive threat at this point in his career (72 points in 384 games played), so having a steady defenseman as an option for the third pairing is a commodity.
Also, with a smaller sample size of twenty games and only 304 minutes of time on ice at even strength, it’s kind of difficult to gauge an overall performance using RAPM.
Here’s TvR’s 2021 RAPM chart from Evolving-Hockey:
This supports what we saw from JFreshHockey’s graphic. Below replacement levels offensively, and solid defensively. The right side of the graphic can be pretty much disregarded with only five minutes of time on ice during the power play, which were more than likely when the power play was about to expire.
For a bigger sample size, here’s TvR’s player card from Evolving-Hockey over the last three seasons:
This effectively proves that the trends we saw from a small sample size this season are indicative of what TvR is as an NHL defenseman: a solid defensive player with not much to add offensively. He’s in the 71st percentile in even strength defensive goals above replacement (GAR), typically gets third pairing minutes, and very rarely gets power play time. He’s also solid on the penalty kill.
TvR is a solid depth piece for the Capitals’ defensive corps. He’d be a valued commodity as a seventh defenseman that can slot into the lineup when needed, but he would be more than capable to slot in as an every day third pairing right handed defenseman.
Depending on how the off-season and the expansion draft pan out for the Capitals, TvR’s inexpensive contract makes him an ideal option on the third pairing, allowing for more younger options on the back end, while saving money on the salary cap. The Caps are in quite a pinch with the salary cap this off-season, so every dollar counts.
By Justin Trudel