Leafs Minor League Report: Nazem Kadri Showing He's Ready for Primetime?
The Toronto Marlies are simply on fire. After a 6-3 victory over the St. John's IceCaps in Newfoundland last night, the Marlies have extended their winning streak to a team-record six straight games.
With the majority of the scoring the Marlies had now up with the big club—and their starting goalie up with the Leafs, the forgotten about Leafs prospects are starting to shine through and lead the Marlies to a division lead after 20 games played.
Stepping up in the absence of Joe Colborne, Matt Frattin and Joey Crabb, the Leafs second tier prospects are really showing their worth lately with the minor league squad.
Nazem Kadri is coming off a rather outrageous performance against St. John's in which he scored two goals and added a pair of assists the previous night, and added a goal the next night in the Marlies 6-3 victory over the IceCaps.
Although I would still consider Kadri the Leafs best prospect right now, he seems to be getting forgotten about lately, despite having more NHL experience than Frattin or Colborne.
With Crabb, and Colborne up with the Leafs, they have fallen out of the top 10 in the AHL for points. However, one forgotten about Marlie is steadily providing offence and a veteran presence down the middle. That player of course is Mike Zigomanis, a player I've been saying for a while now that should be up with the Leafs in some capacity.
Not only has Zigomanis lead the Marlies in scoring this season, but he's also leading a very stingy Marlie penalty kill which ranks them among the best in the AHL currently. The ship lead by coach Dallas Eakins is really teaching the big club how to better kill penalties.
Consequently, the Leafs power-play has been improving—have they been watching some Marlies games lately?
One hulking forward that has nearly gone unnoticed up until now has been Marcel Mueller. Playing alongside Zigomanis and at the start Colborne, Mueller's playing a great two-way game with the Marlies. With 18 points through 17 games, Mueller is putting together a 1.1 points per game pace with the Marlies along with a plus-10 rating, which is nothing to sneeze at either.
At 6'3" 232 pounds, Mueller has the potential to be that big, power forward the Leafs have lacked since the days of Gary Roberts.
Former RPI alum and Leafs budding checking forward Jerry D'Amigo is starting to find his offence with the Marlies. After a slow start, D'Amigo has scored 12 points in 20 games and appears to be hitting his stride playing with Kadri on the clubs first line.
On the back-end, steady play by the likes of Jeff Finger, Matt Lashoff (who is currently on the injured reserve), rookie Jesse Blacker, and Simon Gysbers has helped the Marlies to a very good 12-5-3 record this season.
Gysbers has been the toast of the defensive unit having scored eight points in 12 games with the Marlies. Blessed with a cannon from the point, his presence has not only improved their defensive core, but it also gives the Leafs yet another option to call up if injuries hit the big club, which is only a matter of time.
The last name worth mentioning right now has been the play of goaltender Mark Owuya. The former Swedish Rap star has really wowed the Leafs in his five starts this season. Compiling a 4-1-1 record this year to go with a 1.73 goals against average and .937 save percentage, Owuya may just have bumped goalie Jussi Rynnas down the depth chart with his strong play.
The What Have You Done for Me Lately Gang
15 games played, zero points, -10 rating
11 games played, 1 goal, even rating
4-5-1 3.37 GAA .887 SV%
So in closing, many Marlies are getting their acts together and are bonding as a unit, which is helping them to a North Division-best 27 points. Led by Kadri, Zigomanis, Mueller, and Ryan Hamilton, the Marlies appear primed for a playoff berth in the AHL.
With that said, Kadri has been lighting it up and appears to nearly be ready for the NHL, as he's been dominating the competition lately.
Do the Leafs call up Kadri?
If so, who gets sent down and where does he fit in in the grand scheme of things?
Feel free to post your opinion.
Thanks for reading.
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