Nazem Kadri a Top Line Terror at the WJC

Louis PisanoAnalyst IDecember 30, 2009

TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 22:  Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots during warm-ups before a pre-season  NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on September 22, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada .  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

Nazem Kadri, the seventh pick overall of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2009 NHL Draft, was one of the preseason's most dominant players, and gave Leafs fans a much anticipated glimpse into the bright future of their franchise. Yet he was sent back to juniors to continue his development and dominate in his final year.

Though he had a slow start with the London Knights, he now leads the team with 38 points, 20 goals, and 18 assists in 28 games.  He made Team Canada’s under 20 final roster, and is playing at the World Junior tournament in Saskatchewan.

This 19-year-old is listed at 6'0", 167 pounds on Toronto’s Web site, but apparently he’s been putting on the pounds as he is listed at 177 pounds on Team Canada World Junior roster.

If there was ever a question in the minds of GM Brian Burke, head coach Ron Wilson, or anyone else in the Toronto organization about Kadri's physicality, they have been answered by his play thus far at the World Junior Championships.

Kadri has not only been moved to the top line on a team that has scored 30 goals and given up only two, but has laid out some of the more punishing hits in the tourney.

Kadri’s offence has never been a question and he continues to answer the bell.

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In three games he has three goals and two assists for five points while playing on a line with Taylor Hall, the only undrafted player on Canada’s under 20 World Junior Team.  Hall is going to be the first overall draft pick in 2010, you can lock it up!

Leafs Nation continues to speculate as to what kind of heights Kadri will elevate their newest stud Phil Kessel’s game to—as well as who else will play on that line, if indeed those two are destined to play together.

One concern about Kadri’s game is the number of penalties he takes. He has 62 minutes in penalties with the Knights this year in 28 games an average of 2.21 penalty minutes per game.

Feistiness is a good quality—but taking bad penalties is not.

In his defense, one of his penalties was given for a thundering hit which, by NHL standards, wouldn’t have been called a penalty, but was called in the WJC because he knocked the helmet off the opposing player's head.

Head shots are one thing officials are keeping a close eye on in this tourney and referees have been told to call anything even close.

As Team Canada's Olympic rosters were named today, Leafs Nation and Canadians alike must be wondering how many of the talented players in the WJC may be suiting up for Canada at the Olympics in 2014 or even 2018.

Could Kadri's name be announced along with Leaf teammate Phil Kessel for their respective countries in the future?  If so, it would bring that always interesting scenario of "teammates playing against each other on the biggest stage in the world" to the forefront.

All of these speculations as to what kind of scenarios Leafs Nation will see with this budding young superstar Nazem Kadri are just that at this point, speculation, but who can’t help but dream!

In case you didn’t know, Gabe Morency (formally of The Score) has launched his new Web site. Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter, my B/R counterpart, and I will be throwing down our Podcast Get The Puck Out every Saturday from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

Next show will be Jan. 9.

We’ll be giving you our opinion and taking your calls on the hottest topics in the hockey world.

The Live Podcast will be broadcast in studio from down town Toronto featuring some betting analysis, fantasy advice, trivia, team/player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.

Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. Don’t miss it, puckheads!
You can catch Morency and “Get The Puck Out” at www.morencysports.com