NHL Prospects: Nazem Kadri Could Bypass Some Elite Company

Bleacher ReportContributor IMay 25, 2010

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

After Oliver Ekman-Larsson—number one prospect of the Phoenix Coyotes—signed his entry level contract yesterday, it got me to thinking—Nazem Kadri will likely jump higher rated prospects in making it to the NHL next season.

Here’s an article from Chris Nichols of Sportsnet covering the signing.

I’ll agree with Nichols that Ekman-Larsson has a legit shot at making the Yotes next season. But, they’ve been burned by rushing players like Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker in the past, so they might forgo bringing the young Swede on board right away.

If Ekman-Larsson isn’t in the NHL next season, he’ll return to his Swedish club Leksands.

Nazem Kadri has been analyzed thick and thin on whether he can crack the Maple Leafs next season. While Ron Wilson thinks he will, I’m concerned that the Leafs might rush him.

In Brian Burke’s end of season presser, reiterated that Kadri has to actually make the team and impress the hell out of the Leafs brass.

I hope they stay true to their word, and if Kadri doesn’t belong yet, send him to the AHL for a year.

Right now the top five prospects from last seasons draft who didn’t make the immediate jump are as follows.

1.) Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Leksands IF, Swe. – Phoenix Coyotes –  sixth overall)

2.) Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (Timra, Swe. – Edmonton Oilers – 10th overall)

3.) Brayden Schenn (Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL – LA Kings – fifth overall)

4.) Nazem Kadri (London Knights, OHL – Maple Leafs – seventh overall)

5.) Chris Kreider (Boston University, NCAA – NY Rangers – 19th overall)

Out of those five, Paajarvi-Svenson seems like the only player more likely to play in the NHL next year than our buddy Naz.

Both have the luxury of being drafted by two of the weakest teams in the NHL so their competition level for training camp leaves a lot of doors open.

Brayden Schenn could make a case for the LA Kings next season, but I think they’ll give him some time in Manchester first.

Chris Kreider is a solid centre, and arguably the fastest player in last years draft. His ability to hit top speed in a hurry is one of his key assets, and he ripped it up this past Christmas at the World Juniors.

Playing with Brian Burke’s USA squad at the World Championships as the only non-professional is something to add to his resume as well.  However, I don’t think the Rangers will rush this kid. He’ll head back to college for another year. Fellow Ranger prospect Derek Stepan will likely get a shot before Kreider regardless.

Kadri is a special talent, and if he indeed makes the Leafs roster next season, he’ll leave behind some elite company like Kreider, Larsson and Schenn.

Based on playing for brutal teams trying to climb out of the gutter, Kadri and Paajarvi-Svensson can at least feel lucky about having a more realistic shot at playing with the big boys next season.

Let’s hope they don’t take it for granted and come to camp ready to put it all on the table.