James van Riemsdyk had the benefit of coming to the Toronto Maple Leafs with less pressure than what Phil Kessel did, and so far he has performed better than expected with his new team. While Kessel has yet to score a goal for the Leafs after three straight seasons of 30 or more goals, van Riemsdyk has thrived in his new surroundings and is tied for the team lead with six goals.
Youngsters Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri have come up big for Toronto this season, and van Riemsdyk looks to be rebounding nicely from a 2011-12 season that saw him battle injuries and manage just 24 points. The former second overall draft pick exploded for 21 goals and 40 points for the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2010-11 season, and the Maple Leafs saw enough value in him to ship defenseman Luke Schenn to Philadelphia.
van Riemsdyk is seeing top-line minutes alongside Kessel and young center Tyler Bozak, and their line accounts for four of the team’s six power play goals. As the Leafs finally give their young players a chance at the NHL level this season, van Riemsdyk will be an almost veteran presence of sorts, in just his fourth season. He is already seeing some big minutes with the Leafs, and has a chance to be a star in Toronto instead of being buried behind a handful of other forwards in Philadelphia. The Maple Leafs take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight, and will look to try and gain ground in the Eastern Conference. As the standings currently sit, the Leafs would be the seventh seed for the playoffs.