Leafs set to take “long look” at James van Riemsdyk as a center
When the Toronto Maple Leafs landed “thoroughbred” forward James van Riemsdyk via a trade, the immediate question was: where will he fit? Being that he’s a winger, lining him up with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul didn’t seem like an obvious answer,* but Lance Hornby reports that Leafs coach Randy Carlyle will give JVR a “long look” at center during training camp.
Now, such an idea doesn’t guarantee much. It could just be a short-term camp experiment. There’s also no promise that the Leafs would want to load up with that young trio of scorers, although Mikhail Grabovski seems ideally suited as a hidden gem of a second center.
Still, Carlyle hasn’t been shy about taking a look at big, American wingers in the middle. He gave (fellow second overall pick) Bobby Ryan a solid run at center in Anaheim, with moderate results.
Of course, playing center presents a significant set of challenges. The two most obvious questions are: can he handle the increase in defensive responsibility and survive in the faceoff circle?
It certainly wouldn’t hurt to take a look.
* - Even if Kessel came into the league with some experience as a pivot ...