There are multiple reasons that the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to have one of the better seasons among Eastern Conference teams this year, as they snapped their playoff drought and reached the postseason as the no. 5 seed. No. 1 among those reasons was the play of their core group of forwards.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch, aside from Nazem Kadri, was what James van Riemsdyk managed to do in his first year in a Leafs sweater. Considered a bust prior to the move, trading Luke Schenn for the still young forward proved to be a terrific move for the Maple Leafs.
The 24-year-old forward, who was 23 for most of the season, van Riemsdyk was the third leading point-getter for Toronto this season. He had 32 points on the campaign, which would have set him on pace for a new career mark. He finished the year with 18 goals, including five on the man advantage.
Despite playing in 48 games, JvR fell just eight points shy of his career high for points. His best season came back in 2010-2011, when he had 40 points in 78 games, hence that bust label. He finished with 21 goals that year, just three more than what he had in a much shorter 2013 season.
That initial experiment that was expected to take place with van Riemsdyk at center never really materialized, and that was probably for the better. He had an excellent season on the wing for the Leafs and established himself as a key player for this club, which has a bright future all of a sudden.
Next year could end up bringing even better fortune to van Riemsdyk and Toronto. With a season under his belt to adjust, as well as the fact that the 2013-14 season will be a full season, we could very well see James van Riemsdyk explode, and post numbers that we have yet to see in his career.