Kadri on the Wing?
Nazem Kadri is ranked fourth overall in points in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
It has a nice ring to it when you take into consideration he was eliminated in the second-round by his ex-team, the Kitchener Rangers. Kadri compiled an impressive 9 goals and 27 points in 12 playoff games, giving him the highest points-per-game average among playoff competitors during the 2010 OHL post-season.
However, that doesn’t mean his future in the National Hockey League for next season is solidified. Not even close, actually. Fact remains that plenty of promising prospects have fell by the wayside and spoiled untapped potential, and that the manner in which an NHL club handles the transition of a prospect into the big leagues remains of paramount importance in the successful development of a promising up-and-comer into a consistent NHL contributor, especially in a hotbed like Toronto.
Will that be the case with Kadri? I’d bet money it won’t be, but any jackass can simply bring up the curious case of Alexander Daigle if they want to argue otherwise.
Pertaining to the topic at hand, I’m predicting along with the majority that Kadri will indeed don the Maple Leafs‘ sweater for the 2010-11 campaign and onward.
As all Leafs fans know, it’s not just his offensive flair that makes Kadri such a highly-touted prospect. It’s his willingness to throw the body, drop the gloves or kill penalties despite his small frame that makes him ready. He has the heart of the lion, to put it simply, and he’s the character of player the Leafs are in desperate need of moving forward into playoff contention.
Of course, an ongoing concern is whether or not he will add the necessary weight to withstand the rigors of the NHL right off the bat. If he manages to apply his aggressive game, it’s unlikely he’d endure the 82-game schedule without experiencing periods of fatigue if not worse. Logic dictates that if he does add some pounds, it’s likely he’d still endure some hardships in his first season in the big league, akin to most NHL rookies
I’m admittedly guilty of putting the cart ahead of the horse a bit here, and it should be emphasized by the coaching staff that Kadri has to earn his way into a roster spot like anyone else, but it leads me to wonder how the coaching staff can best position Kadri in the line-up to assure he’s in a position to transition successfully. Some have him etched in as the secondary center to Tyler Bozak. No question, it’s a plausible scenario, but how about playing Kadri on the wing? Strength is an important component to be effective at the center position, and Kadri may struggle in that regard as he matures physically and makes the strength adjustment to the NHL.
Not only that, but if GM Brian Burke wants to acquire a big center in the off-season, it would make sense to put Kadri on the wing for a couple of reasons other than what I mentioned above.
Bozak can play center on the second-line and leave the No.1 position to whoever the mystery man may be. Should the Leafs acquire a big center (perhaps via trade by unloading Tomas Kaberle), I think it’d be a perfect scenario for Kadri. He can play with someone who can make room on the ice and let Kadri employ his offensive game, one of finesse and speed. As the experience mounts, he can find his comfort zone and slowly begin to match-up against the league’s top defensemen. Throwing the 19-year-old in the fire right from the get-go is an unnecessary risk. There’s no need to put him on a pedestal at this stage in his development.Â This works in the Leafs’ favour as well. They’d upgrade down the middle and still have Kadri patrolling the opponents end in top minutes, instead of having two inexperienced, at times inconsistent players heading up the roster at center. Sure, it’d be fun to watch, but there would be more of those frustrating nights we saw last season as a natural consequence of having youth heavily leading the charge.
If he has another impressive training camp, he will undoubtedly find himself on the Leafs’ top-six—moreso because of the fact that it’s extremely bare. But that doesn’t mean he should be one of the primary scorers and be counted on to put up huge numbers. He needs to gain as much experience as possible and learn how to be effective at the NHL level. Again, as other Leafs bloggers have mentioned, adding some veterans to the mix and more particularly Kadri’s line might aid the acclimation in this regard.
In Leafs Nation, we are admittedly occasionally guilty of placing unrealistic expectations on prospects and their potential. But in the case of Kadri, patience is key. He’s a potential number one center who can play at both ends of the rink and display a ton of heart. As always, we cannot screw this up by acting like a 13-year-old boy finding a stash of dirty magazines—OK, I’m not quite sure if that made sense, but you catch my drift.
Interesting Kadri stats:
In his first three seasons in the OHL, Kadri compiled 118 PIMs. In the 2009-10 season, he racked up 105 PIMs alone.
Without a hitch Kadri steadily increased his point totals every season in the OHL —from 22, to 65, to 78 to 93 points.
Kadri’s OHL playoff points-per-game average is more productive than the likes of Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Bobby Ryan, Matt Duchene and others. Just sayin’.
You stay classy, MLHS.
Administrative note: Canâ€™t believe we missed this, but I never activated the registration component of the new MLHS. My sincere apologies to anyone who has attempted to register since the relaunch. You can now do so here. This is also a call out to all of you lurkers to register and get in on the discussionâ€¦ now that you are physically able to.