MOVING UP THE LADDER?

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    A couple of weeks ago, Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn was battling for a spot on the Toronto blueline. Perhaps he still is.

    But I believe his stellar play to date must have him at least moving up the ladder on the Leafs defensive charts.

    Being a defenceman myself, I tend to pay a little more attention to the guys on the blueline, and I’ve been watching Van Ryn pretty closely. I think he’s been undersold.

    The London native was a first round pick of the Devils in 1998 but then opted to sign as a free agent with St. Louis in 2000.

    After splitting time with the Blues and the AHL for a couple of years, he was traded for Valeri Bure to Florida in March 2003, where he seemed to flourish as an NHL defenceman.

    Van Ryn had three full seasons with the Panthers, all fairly productive, before a recurring wrist injury limited him to 20 games last season.

    So, a fresh start with a new club, with low expectations of the team, and apparently the player. Will it make a difference?

    So far, after sitting out a game, he’s played 6 and recorded 4 points and a plus 4, and looked solid anytime I’ve seen him play.

    Combine his play with the less than amazing play of Kaberle and Kubina, and I believe it will only be a matter of time before Van Ryn moves up the depth chart.

    Kaberle seems uninterested and one can only hope he picks up the pace as the season progresses. Kubina is off to a slow start but should rebound.

    Van Ryn, meanwhile, looks to be gaining confidence in himself and that of coach Ron Wilson, and that can only be a good thing.

    Hopefully with the return of Jeff Finger, Van Ryn is not the odd man out. I have a feeling he will provide us with a solid effort night in and night out.

    What do you think?

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    Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He’s published five magazines on the team entitled “The Maple Leafs Annual” with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosts “The Battle of the Atlantic,” a weekly show on TSN1200 that covers the Leafs and the NHL in-depth.

    Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada’s Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian.

    You can contact him at [email protected]