On October 10th, 2020, Trevor van Riemsdyk signed a one year deal worth $800,000 to serve as a depth defenseman on the pandemic shortened 2020-21 iteration of the Washington Capitals. Although “TvR” played infrequently on the Caps’ veteran-laden defensive corps last season, it appeared the Capitals and TvR both saw something they liked, and agreed to a two-year extension worth $950,000 annually.
Come the start of the 2021-22 season, TvR solidified himself in the Capsitals’ everyday lineup on a pairing with Justin Schultz. Most notably, he’s a right-shot defenseman playing on his off-hand side.
It’s not very typical in today’s NHL for defensemen to play on their off-hand side, especially not for right-shot defensemen, who are much rarer of a commodity in the league. TvR has risen to the occasion:
In the 2020-21 regular season, TvR suited up for 17 games. So far this season, he has played in 20. Effectively, we’re looking at the same sample size from last season to this season for TvR, and the results are rather consistent.
Most notably, TvR had a huge jump in goals for percentage this season, which is rather interesting considering he’s at exactly 50% for high-danger chance share. The pull in the positive direction is that when he’s on the ice, the Capitals are controlling both Corsi and Fenwick shot attempts, shots on goal, and overall scoring chances. This advanced metric stat line is precisely what you’d want to see from your so-called third pairing defenseman.
You can disregard the right side of the above graphic, since TvR doesn’t play on the power play. Outside of that, on the left side is TvR’s RAPM at even strength. The Z-score of 0 is the baseline of an average player. In goals For per 60 minutes, expected goals against per 60 minutes, and Corsi shot attempts allowed are an entire standard deviation above the average player rating.
This means that TvR is playing at a level that is better than about 84% of other players in the league at the same position. This is incredible value for a player who is on a multi-year deal making $950,000.
Here’s another view of player value, specifically wins above replacement (WAR) measurements, courtesy of JFreshHockey:
This graphic shows TvR’s net change in WAR percentages from the 2020-21 season to now. Effectively, TvR is in the 93rd percentile for overall wins above replacement for players in his position, and is generating great value in every area but shooting.
The “drop-off” in shooting is more because he hasn’t scored yet this season, and scored once in 20 games last season. That puts him at a rate of a goal every 37 games, which even for defensemen is low. He’s also only put up 22 shots so far this season in 17 games.
The Capitals found a true diamond in the rough in Trevor van Riemsdyk. Not only were they able to lock him up for a two-year deal, TvR’s salary is ultra-affordable for a Capitals team that’s seemingly always up against the salary cap ceiling. Not only is he affordable, but he’s versatile, can play on the penalty kill, and puts up extremely solid possession metrics.
The time will come soon for Coach Peter Laviolette to start giving TvR a bit more ice time. He’s only averaging 17:40 in time on ice so far this season, and his performance warrants more ice time, especially during 5-on-5 play.
By Justin Trudel