With the 2010-11 NHL training camps just a few weeks away, many Toronto Maple Leaf fans are excited to see what can Nazem Kadri bring to the table.
Kadri had an impressive training camp last season, demonstrating his ability to score on a nightly basis.
Where Kadri fell short was in the size department, something he has addressed this off-season to the tune of what is expected to be a 15-20 pound weight gain.
Originally drafted in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (seventh overall) by the Maple Leafs, Kadri looks to be on track to assume a NHL roster spot this season.
With little competition down the middle, Kadri will likely play on Toronto’s second and third lines, with an outside chance of earning first line honors if sophomore Tyler Bozak falters.
Kadri, a left handed shot, spent last season with the London Knights of the OHL, posting a career high in goals (35), assists (58) and points (93), penalty minutes (105) and a plus/minus rating of plus +26 to boot!
Kadri followed up an impressive 2009-10 regular season with an even more impressive playoff, scoring nine goals and adding 18 assists for a total of 27 points in just 12 games.
Kadri’s OHL regular season, impressive showing at the World Junior Championships and subsequent dominant performance in the OHL playoffs, have many Leaf fans expecting big things from the London, Ontario native.
While many contend that Kadri is more of a sniper than set-up man, many (including myself) feel he is capable of adapting to either role. In speaking to a number of London Knights fans, many expressed their concern over Kadri’s penchant for holding onto the puck too long, which earned him a reputation for being a bit of a puck hog.
On the flip-side, some of the fans I spoke to suggested that Kadri’s penchant for holding onto the puck or choosing to shoot over making the pass had as much to do with his linemates inability to finish than it did with Kadri being greedy or selfish.
For those of you that watched Kadri play at the WJC, you know what Kadri can bring to the table. Kadri’s ability and willingness to accept different roles befitted him and he rose from fourth liner, to the second and first line duty with Team Canada.
Kadri’s inspired play and hard work in front of the net established him as one of the better forwards on Team Canada and proved once and for all that he belonged on the ice.
Given Kadri’s talent and promise, it is easy to suggest that he will have a decent rookie NHL season.
Expectations are high, but realistically, a 15 goal, 40-45 point season would be a tremendous season for the 19-year old, who will likely endure a huge learning curve this season, especially defensively.
A lot of it will depend on what role Kadri gets with the team and who he is playing with. If Kadri gets plugged into the second line centre position he will likely be asked to fill a scoring role with Colby Armstrong and perhaps a player like Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin or Luca Caputi anchoring Kadri on the wings.
If Kadri is asked to play on the third line (something I feel would be a mistake) he would have to assume more of a support role, which would not utilize what Kadri brings to the rink.
So, what should Leaf fans be expecting from Kadri?
In short form, he is a player that can be a set-up man or scorer, with soft hands, decent two-way instincts, and who is not afraid to go to the net.
Statistically, as I stated above, I think 15 goals and 25-30 assists is a realistic goal, especially if he manages to earn some power play time (he scored 11 power play goals with London last season).
In terms of hustle, Kadri has often been accused of taking shifts off. With the likes of head coach Ron Wilson, general manager Brian Burke and players like Dion Phaneuf watching him, this should not be an issue going forward.
Given Kadri’s weight gain over the summer, he should emerge as a much more durable player who should be able to compete with NHL defensemen and forwards alike.
One thing is for sure, the Maple Leafs need this kid to “bring it” every night if this team is going anywhere close to the playoffs this season. Here’s hoping Kadri makes a difference.
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Until next time,