Who will play alongside Kessel and Lupul?


When Toronto traded for Phil Kessel, they did so to provide themselves with the kind of first-line caliber scorer they were sorely lacking. You could argue that the price was too high, but at least Kessel has largely lived up to his end of the bargain.

In 2011-12, Joffrey Lupul developed some on-ice chemistry with Kessel and the two emerged as one of the league’s top combinations. However, the Leafs still lack a true first-line center to play between them.

Their was some optimism that Tim Connolly might be able to fill that role when he inked a two-year, $9.5 million contract last summer, but he got injured early on and never got his season back on track. Instead, Tyler Bozak often ended up playing with Lupul and Kessel for lack of a better option.

Now the Leafs are talking about turning freshly acquired winger James van Riemsdyk into a center. If he can adapt to that role then the Leafs would have a very appealing top line, but van Riemsdyk’s time as a pivot might not even last through training camp.

On the plus side, Kessel and Lupul both maintained a roughly point-per-game pace last season despite the exist of this problem, so maybe this isn’t such a dire need for Toronto from an offensive prospective. Still, it is one of their bigger question marks going into the 2012-13 campaign.