It’s rare to see Trevor van Riemsdyk without a smile on his face.
It’s just part of the happy demeanor of the Blackhawks’ defenseman. But coming off last season, his first healthy one in several years, there was even more reason to be beaming.
Van Riemsdyk completed a much-needed full season last year with the Blackhawks, playing in all 82 regular-season and seven playoff games. It was a happy and relief-filled season for van Riemsdyk, who missed most of the 2014-15 regular- and postseason with knee and wrist injuries. He had also fractured his ankle in January 2014, when he was at the University of New Hampshire.
“To play in every single game was nice. When you’re doing that, there’s a lot to learn about taking care of yourself, being ready to go every night,” van Riesmdyk said at this weekend’s Blackhawks convention. “It’s a big jump playing almost 90 games; my most ever before that was probably 40-something. But watching what all the guys do – we have so many guys who take such good care of themselves and know every possible way to better themselves – it’s a great resource.”
[SHOP: Get your own Blackhawks gear here, fans!]
Here’s another new one for van Riemsdyk: a summer he can spend fully training from the start.
“Last summer was just getting everything to feel back to 100 percent and feeling good for camp. Now you want to push it past where it was before,” he said. “Obviously the summer’s a little longer than we wanted but you have to make the most of it and use the extra days of rest when you can. Just a lot of it is improving your game and taking all those little things you learned along the way and do it this summer.”
The Blackhawks defense leaned on Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson last season but some younger players were given that much more responsibility. That included van Riemsdyk, who had his ups and downs in his first full professional season. With Brian Campbell back in the fold the Blackhawks’ defense has more balance. Still, van Riemsdyk will be a big part of that defense moving forward.
At the Blackhawks coaches’ panel on Saturday morning, assistant coach Mike Kitchen was asked potential defensive pairs to open the season. He said they could be Keith-Hjalmarsson, Campbell-Seabrook and van Riemsdyk-Michal Kempny, the Czech defenseman the Blackhawks signed in May.
[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Jordin Tootoo buys into Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook's 'recruiting pitch']
Last season was a learning experience for van Riemsdyk. More importantly, it was a very healthy one. Now van Riemsdyk gets a chance to build off that season and keep learning from the Blackhawks’ veteran defensemen, Campbell included.
“It’s awesome to bring in another guy like that. Brian has a tremendous résumé,” van Riemsdyk said. “Even before, seemed like you have an unlimited amount of resources to learn from, certain ways, different ways. Almost everything you can possibly think of, we have a guy who’s great at and you can learn from it.”