TORONTO – James van Riemsdyk ... second-leading scorer on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Hard to believe, Harry, but it’s true.
JVR has a team-high seven goals for the Maple Leafs while his nine points are just one shy of Phil Kessel’s total.
Looks like last summer’s draft day trade that sent him to The Big T.O. for Luke Schenn is working out for both teams in different ways.
The Flyers have a big, tough, young defenseman who hits like bulldozer and blocks shots even if he lacks puck skills, while the Leafs have another young player who can deliver some offense and might someday achieve power-forward status in the NHL.
Does JVR still have something to prove now as the Flyers meet the Leafs on Monday night for the first time since the deal was consummated?
“I’ve always said in the past that when I’m given the opportunity to be a key contributor, I’ve held up my end of the bargain and was a productive player,” JVR told reporters on Sunday.
“For whatever reason, over the last year, with injuries, those types of things got in the way. But I always knew that I had confidence in myself and when given the opportunity that I would make the most of it.”
He was oft-injured as a Flyer and very slow to return to the lineup, something that irked management. Yet he was also a kid everyone felt was impossible to dislike on any level.
“Being part of Philadelphia was definitely a good place to play,” JVR said. “I have nothing but good things to say about the fans and the city and the great group of teammates that we had.
“Here in Toronto, we’ve developed an identity. Your actions say what you are on the ice. We’ve done a good job of being resilient and gotten off to a decent start.”
Van Riemsdyk expects that he will have some “mixed emotions” tonight, seeing his old teammates and friends on the ice at Air Canada Centre.
“You just have to get them out of the way quickly,” he said. “I had some great years and some great memories in Philadelphia. But that’s all in the past now and it’s time to focus on what’s ahead.
“It’s not tough going against them. I expect them to play tough against me. I’d do the same to them. That’s hockey. That’s how it works. It will be exciting to play those guys.”
Twelve games into the season, Luke Schenn says he feels like a Flyer. What about van Riesmdyk? Does he feel part of the Toronto community?
It’s perhaps the toughest place in the NHL to call “home,” because once the fans get down on you – like they did with Schenn – it wears badly.
Van Riemsdyk says he feels very comfortable.
“Once you start playing some games it starts to set in,” he said. “You think about it over the summer and the lockout. It was kind of a weird, in-between kind of feeling.
“But now that we’ve been playing games, we have a great group of guys. I’m definitely used to playing for the blue and white now.”
Schenn was the fifth pick in the 2008 draft. JVR was the second pick in 2007. Both players thought they would have long careers with the clubs that chose them.
Schenn lasted four years in Toronto. JVR lasted three in Philly.
“I think everyone, when they get picked, that’s their thought,” van Riemsdyk said. “Play there for 15 years, maybe win a Cup or two, sail off into the sunset.
"But the reality is that it doesn’t happen too often that you stay with the same team for your entire career. I’m lucky to be with another great franchise here.”