TORONTO -- When the Flyers sent left-winger James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for defenceman Luke Schenn last summer, both players were considered underachieving former first-round draft picks whose careers might be jump-started by a change of scenery.
A little more than three weeks into the season, that's exactly what has happened. Both are thriving with their new teams.
Schenn, 23, has become one of the cornerstones of the Flyers defence and is in their top pairing with Kimmo Timonen. He leads the NHL in hits (46) and is 12th in blocked shots with 27.
Van Riemsdyk, 23, has seven goals in 12 games -- tops on the Maple Leafs and tied for fourth in the NHL entering Sunday -- and is a major reason long-suffering Toronto is off to a 7-5 start.
The Flyers (5-6-1) will play in Toronto tonight, the first time the teams have met since the June 23 trade.
When the deal was made, Schenn was ecstatic because he was joining his younger brother, Brayden. In Toronto, where he was under intense scrutiny, he was viewed as a major disappointment, and he said the Flyers were giving him a "fresh start."
At the time of the trade, van Riemsdyk -- the second overall pick in 2007 -- did not share Schenn's happiness.
"Anytime you're drafted by a team, you envision playing your whole career there, winning a couple of Stanley Cups, and riding off into the sunset," van Riemsdyk said Sunday in a telephone interview.
The initial disappointment of the trade has worn off for van Riemsdyk, who said he wasn't surprised by the deal because he had heard the swirling rumoUrs. He said he loves playing in Toronto but conceded that today's game won't be easy.
"I have mixed emotions," he said. "I enjoyed my time in Philly and the fans there. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. Going to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 was unbelievable, and I made a lot of friendships there. I consider some of those guys some of the best friends I've ever made in hockey."
"But, obviously, you have to move on."
He has done just that while playing on a line with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak.
Schenn, the fifth-overall pick in the 2008 draft, looks forward to returning to Toronto.
"It's going to be pretty exciting. Obviously, I've got lots of buddies on the other team," he said. "I got drafted there, and played four years, and met a lot of good people in that city."
Schenn has decreased his turnovers and increased his physical play in recent games, contributing to the Flyers' 3-0-1 homestand. They will take some momentum with them as they start a season-high six-game road trip today.
"It's gone a little better as a team, and I have a little more confidence going in there, for sure," Schenn said.
Coach Peter Laviolette said it can be "a little bit challenging" to face the team that traded you.
"But he's really found a nice home here, and he's really become a valuable player for us on the back end," Laviolette said.
In Saturday's 4-3 overtime win over Carolina, Schenn blocked six shots and had eight hits while playing nearly 26 minutes.
-- The Philadelphia Inquirer