Nazem Kadri is starting to make his presence felt offensively for the Toronto Marlies this season, and if his impressive performances for head coach Dallas Eakins continue, he will build the confidence needed to finally earn a permanent spot on the Maple Leafs roster.
Kadri has scored three goals in the Marlies' last four games and leads the team with 20 shots in that same period. It's encouraging to see Kadri being aggressive offensively, because when he looks for his offense, he's going to put up points with all the talent he has.
It's important that he continues to take plenty of shots and not be passive in the offensive zone, especially on the power play. It's hard to imagine anyone complaining if Kadri takes a lot of shots each game. Your best offensive players should be confident enough to take their chances offensively.
His offensive production (five goals and 13 assists in 20 games) has been impressive thus far and he will continue to get better as the season progresses.
It's too early to say that Kadri has "turned the corner" and is starting to become the player that fans envisioned him being when he was selected seventh overall by Toronto at the 2009 NHL Draft, but he is improving.
That's an encouraging sign for Leafs fans, who have high expectations for the young forward this season.
From a defensive standpoint, we still need to see more from Kadri. To thrive on a Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle kind of team, you need to be responsible defensively and impact games physically. However, it's important that the Leafs don't try to change Kadri's game too much. Some players are very good offensively and play at their highest level when this part of their game is the primary focus.
For example, the Boston Bruins want young forward Tyler Seguin to play well defensively, but if they make Seguin focus too much on the defensive aspect of his game, then his offense could suffer.
Seguin is on the Bruins to score goals and create chances for teammates, and these should be Kadri's responsibilities on the Leafs.
He's a very good offensive talent, and for Kadri to succeed at the NHL level, he needs to be given the freedom to focus on scoring goals.
Defense will always be an important and necessary part of his skill set, but the Leafs need to let Kadri display his offensive talents without having to worry too much about playing a physical game.
Kadri was an excellent goal scorer for the Kitchener Rangers and London Knights during his junior hockey career, and that's the kind of player he needs to be for the Leafs.
His recent performances have been impressive, especially from an offensive perspective, but it's too early to say that Kadri has officially turned the corner.
Not until he plays well on a consistent basis at the NHL level will Kadri turn the corner and become a top-tier player.