Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
Coming off an impressive 25-goal, 78-point season with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights in 2008-'09, the Toronto Maple Leafs rewarded Nazem Kadri by selecting him in the first round (No. 7 overall) in the 2009 NHL entry draft.
This season, with expectations being so high for the young centre, anything short of a breakout year would be deemed a disappointment by many. To his credit, Kadri has played well this season, scoring 20 goals and netting 38 points in 28 games, ranking him 42nd overall in OHL scoring.
Despite missing 10 games due to his participation in the World Junior Championships over the holidays, Kadri still leads the London Knights in scoring. Not to be lost in his seemingly low point totals is the fact that Kadri has improved as a player this season and, by all accounts, is developing into a legitimate NHL prospect.
During the WJC Kadri established himself as an offensive threat in every game. His aggressive forechecking and ability to successfully move the puck through traffic was constantly on display, as was his willingness to go to the net.
With three goals and five assists in the tournament, Kadri did not hit a home run at the WJC. That said, Kadri was not expected to make this team by some and, by all accounts, he was a very valuable member of Team Canada, stepping up to play on the first line and power play when called upon.
More importantly, Kadri played a great all-round game. His defensive efforts were duly noted and his high-tempo/high energy game served notice to Brian Burke and the rest of the Leafs' staff that this kid is developing nicely and, if all goes well, Kadri should compete for a roster spot on the Leafs as early as 2010-'11.
Like every other member of Team Canada, Kadri has to be disappointed in their Silver Medal effort. Hey, you can’t win ‘em all, right? On a personal level, Kadri has to be happy with his overall play at the tournament, which should go a long way in furthering his development at the OHL level.
At 6’0” and just 167 pounds, Kadri still has some developing to do. An 82-game NHL schedule takes its toll on even the fittest players, so an offseason regimen of working out and adding muscle is a must if Kadri expects to make the leap to the NHL.
Maple Leaf fans can rest assured that Kadri will be a big part of their team's future. When that is exactly, is still up in the air.
Until next time,