For the month of August, Editor in Leaf will take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs roster, previewing what could happen in the 2014-15 NHL season. Today we have a look at top-line winger James van Riemsdyk.
Position: Left Wing
Years With Leafs: Two
James van Riemsdyk had instant chemistry with Phil Kessel when the two were paired together in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, a bond that continued through their first full season together the following year. Saddled with carrying the depth-challenged Leafs’ offense throughout their time together, Kessel and JvR finished first and second, respectively, in even-strength scoring on the 2013-14 Leafs. The were also first and third on the team in power play scoring. When all was said and done, JvR finished with 30 goals and 61 points on the season, good for 39th in the NHL.
JvR owns a skill set useful in almost any situation. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he has an ideal power forward’s frame and the willingness to fight for space in front of the opposition net as well as crash it on the rush, but also brings the speed, hands and creativity to work with the most talented of linemates.
Aside from being the yin to Kessel’s yang, JvR has also found success on the Toronto penalty kill. In 2013-14, JvR was third among full-time Leafs in shorthanded ice time with 1 minute and 27 seconds per game, and led the team in combined special teams ice time per game. With the departures of regular penalty killers in Jay McClement and Nikolai Kulemin, JvR could be in line for an increased role, though new additions like Daniel Winnik, Leo Komarov and Mike Santorelli will certainly be picking up some of the special teams slack as well.
At 25 years old, JvR is in the midst of his athletic prime, and with what looks to be the deepest Leafs team since his arrival in Toronto, could be set to reach new heights in 2014-15 as he and Kessel will continue forming their one-two punch in a system that doesn’t require them to provide a lion’s share of team scoring.