|Maple Leafs' Mike Van Ryn is hoping to avoid the sick bay this season. (Dave Abel/Sun Media)
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson isn’t the only monster at Maple Leafs training camp.
Veteran defenceman Mike Van Ryn is a bit of a monster these days.
Van Ryn, who missed 55 games for the Leafs last season because of a variety of injuries, and 62 the season before as a member of the Florida Panthers, has reached the conclusion that adding muscle and brawn to his already sturdy frame will cut down the odds of becoming injured.
To that end, the London, Ont., native worked extensively during the off-season with Anthony Belza, the Leafs strength and conditioning co-ordinator, and put on 12 extra pounds of muscle — pushing his weight to about 220 pounds.
Anything to stay out of the dreaded sick bay.
“It was a tough (2008-09) season and I took advantage of it in the weight room,” Van Ryn said yesterday. “And it’s a significant improvement.”
Van Ryn was one of the best defencemen on the ice last season for Toronto — when he was healthy.
But now that he’s almost 100% again (he is still recovering from a minor knee procedure done two months ago, and will be ready to scrimmage next week), he’ll have to fight for one of the top six spots on defence.
With the off-season additions of veteran blueliners Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and Garnet Exelby, to go along with last year’s regulars Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Ian White, Jeff Finger and Jonas Frogren, Van Ryn will have to be healthy and ready to play if he’s going to crack the top six — which coach Ron Wilson said he is more than capable of doing.
“He should be (a top-six defenceman),” Wilson said. “He played really well for us in the (27) games he played last year. But, again, he has got to compete against all the other guys.
“He’s a little bit behind the 8-ball right now, but I have a soft spot in my heart for him because of how hard he played and how well he played last year.
“But then again, this is all about winning and we’ll always put the six best on the ice,” the coach said.
“We’re deep on defence,” Van Ryn said. “We’re all scratching and clawing. Playing a lot of minutes is going to be tough this year. But I think it’s going to be spread around pretty good and it’s a good, healthy competition. And it brings out the best in players.”