He is north of 6 feet tall, has amazing skating ability, has a great pair of hands, can pass, and shoot. But, can he take a face-off? This question will be answered in the coming weeks. If van Riemsdyk is able to be close to 50% in the circle then the Leafs might have found what they were looking for.
The prototypical number 1 center has forever been described with the same characteristics of James van Riemsdyk. What makes this position switch all the more intriguing is that it could allow Carlyle the opportunity to ice one of the most skillful first lines in the NHL.
Lupul, van Riemsdyk, and Kessel could potentially be one of the most potent lines in Leaf history, mirroring the offensive capabilities of the Andreychuk, Gilmour, Clark line.
I understand that this is a what if scenario but that is exactly what sports is. An unimaginable amount of what ifs that lead to a conclusion. The intangibles that JVR can bring up the middle is something the Leafs have not seen since the departure/retirement of Mats Sundin. I am not trying to insinuate that van Riemsdyk is the second coming of Mats Sundin, but it is hard to deny his raw skill and affinity around the net.
James van Riemsdyk has the abilities to skate hashmark to haskmark and battle down low as we have seen him do before. It is in the circle that this experiment will find its solution. If he is successful down the middle then the leafs have further shortened their list of needs. A core of centers that would include: van Riemsdyk, Kadri, Bolland/Bozak, and McClement would leave the Leafs stronger up the middle than they've been in recent years.
But if ifs and buts were candies and nuts the Leafs would have 24 cups. This experiment at the least will be exciting to watch. At the worst it will be stop gap till Bozak returns, at its best the leafs will be shopping for an elite defenceman to shore up one of the most promising team in the NHL.