One of the bright spots for the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-3 start to the season has been the play of James van Riemsdyk.
After beginning the season with two scoreless games, van Riemsdyk was challenged by Coach Randy Carlyle to be more aggressive and he quickly delivered.
In a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the former second overall pick recorded two goals and one assist along with a +2 rating. In the team’s recent 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, van Riemsdyk picked up his third goal of the season while playing the most minutes of his career in a Leafs uniform with 17:46 minutes of ice time.
When Toronto traded Luke Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers to acquire van Riemsdyk they were hoping to find the big body power forward the team desperately lacked. Trading away Schenn’s potential was a major risk for the Leafs but they believed the potential they were acquiring better suited the team going forward. It’s early, but so far van Riemsdyk is looking like the player Toronto hoped they’d be acquiring.
He won’t always be the most physical player, and he’s not going to run through bodies on a nightly basis. However, if the 23 year-old can continue to battle along the boards and, more importantly, attack the net like he has been. Then the trade that brought the forward north of the border will be well worth it.
With Joffrey Lupul fracturing his forearm against the Penguins and being out of action for at least six weeks, van Riemsdyk will be given the biggest opportunity of his career to produce at the NHL level.
It’s been a good start to his Maple Leaf career so far, but only time will tell if the trade relying on players meeting their potential ends up paying off.