James van Riemsdyk’s tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs is about to get underway and the new Leafs forward says he is willing to do anything, and play any position, in order to help his team win.
Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle announced Monday that van Riemsdyk will start the season playing on the wing, despite rumours the club could place him at centre — a position he hasn’t played in the National Hockey League.
Van Riemsdyk said a shift to centre would be a major adjustment, but it’s one he’s willing to make.
“I played it both my years at college so I have a little bit of a taste for it,” van Riemsdyk told HOCKEY CENTRAL at Noon on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Tuesday. “Obviously it’s a lot different at this level; it’s a much higher level (in the NHL) so there would be a learning curve there for sure but my philosophy on all that has been whatever the team needs me to do to be most successful I’ll be willing to do. If they need me to play centre, defence, goalie, whatever, I’ll do anything as long as it will help the team win games.”
Van Riemsdyk, who arrived in Toronto on Tuesday, spent much of the lockout in Minnesota practising with a group of NHLers that included Minnesota Wild forwards Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
The 23-year-old said he’s excited to be in Toronto and “put all the lockout stuff behind us.” He was acquired by the Maple Leafs in June from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenceman Luke Schenn.
Last year, van Riemsdyk had an injury-plagued season, only suiting up for 43 regular season games, and decided not to undergo surgery for a degenerative hip condition in the summer. He finished the year with 24 points in 43 games and has tallied 99 points in 196 regular season NHL games throughout his career.
During the lockout, van Riemsdyk said he skated three or four times a week and worked out an additional three times per week, while not putting too much mental energy into what was going on with the collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
“I tried not to let myself ride that emotional rollercoaster,” van Riemsdyk said.
Van Riemsdyk spent some of the lockout watching the World Junior Hockey Championship, which Team USA won after eliminating Canada in convincing fashion in the semifinals.
“As a guy who came up through all the USA Hockey stuff it definitely makes you proud to see them do so well at the tournament,” explained the Middletown, N.J., native. “It was pretty cool to see them do that well and I was proud to be an American that day.”
The former second-overall draft pick from the 2007 NHL Draft also did a little film work while the NHL and NHLPA held their numerous bargaining sessions. JVR made a cameo in the comedy film This is 40 which he described as “a pretty fun experience.”
JVR added: “No good things really came out of the lockout, but it gave us the opportunity to do things like that.”