Nazem Kadri: Will He Sink or Swim with Maple Leafs?

Jeff LangridgeCorrespondent IIIJanuary 19, 2013

MONTREAL , QC - JUNE 26: Nazem Kadri poses for a portrait after being selected seventh overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

He’s finally made it.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs deciding to have a slightly younger lineup, Nazem Kadri has finally made the Leafs’ roster out of training camp. That won’t be enough for Kadri, as he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to prove that he can stick with the team full time.

Since Kadri was drafted seventh overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, he has been an enigma to fans.

After a very successful first training camp, Kadri was sent back to the London Knights of the OHL. Some believed that he had done enough to make the team, but due to ex-general manager Brian Burke’s philosophy, he was sent back to junior.

Ever since then, Kadri has struggled to make the Leafs.

After playing one game in the 2009-10 season, he played in 29 games in the 2010-11 season because of injuries. Only registering 12 points did not help his cause. Last season, he again played with the Leafs because of injury problems. In 21 games, he managed five goals and seven assists for 12 points.

That's not bad production, but much more has been expected of him considering his draft position.

This year, Kadri has made the Leafs out of training camp for the first time. The Leafs traded Matthew Lombardi to the Phoenix Coyotes and placed Tim Connolly on waivers and subsequently sent him to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.

The loss of Keith Aucoin to the New York Islanders also helped Kadri when it comes to the Leafs depth chart.

If the lines stay the same as they were in the closing days of camp, Kadri will most likely center the third line between newcomers James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov. With the offensive potential on that line, the Leafs will have three lines that can put the puck in the net at any time.

Kadri could be an effective playmaker, with power forward van Riemsdyk and Darcy Tucker-like Komarov giving him two good options.

Komarov spent part of the lockout playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, so he brings that experience to the line. If van Riemsdyk can stay healthy, he will be a big part of the Leafs lineup for the future.

The only question left is Kadri.

If Kadri can finally play well enough on defense to stay on the team for good, he has the potential to be a great player for the Leafs down the road. All he needs to do is learn to be more consistent with his defensive play and he’ll be fine.

If Kadri can play so well that fans don’t want him traded in any deal for Roberto Luongo or any other goaltender, that’s only good for the Leafs.

Leaf fans have been waiting for Kadri to show up since 2009. If he can play to his full potential this year, the wait will finally be over.