That Kadri kid is pretty good isn’t he? Back when Brian Burke stepped up to the podium at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal, I imagine this was the player he was envisioning that night: slick, slippery and drenched in skill. That was an absolute clinic Kadri put on out there against the Lightning, displaying all sorts of offensive creativity, patience and ingenuity with the puck. This is a player who is gaining confidence and progressing by leaps and bounds – a player on the verge of making a lasting imprint in this star-starved market. But before we get too far of ourselves thinking ahead, why don’t we take a step back and briefly peruse the timeline that has led him to the “now” (and enjoy a few memorable quotes along the way).
June 26th, 2009
Brian Murray: “I’ll flip you…”
Brian Burke: ”Kadri’s the kid we’re gonna take. Is that who you want?”
Brian Murray: “Yeah.”
Brian Burke: “Well that’s who we’re gonna take.”
Brian Burke: (in response to Schenn/Tavares trade rumors) “We had a lot of move-up scenarios but many of them involved keeping this pick. We wanted to keep the number seven to have a shot at this guy (Kadri).”
Nazem Kadri: “Toronto, I think it’s a great fit for me. I’ve got my foot in the door now but I’ve still got some work to do.”
June 28th, 2009
“It took a little while for me to digest this selection, but after setting aside the hype built up for Canadian defender Cowen and Swedish winger Paajarvi-Svensson, I can honestly say I really like this pick. There is little doubt that Kadri is an extremely talented offensive player with a ton of potential and projection. His regular season stats were comparable to those of Brampton’s Matt Duchene and Nazem is the kid who was the Knights’ best player during their playoff run this season, recording 21 points in 14 games played. Yes, on a team that included John Tavares. Kadri is an explosive offensive player with the ability to draw defenders toward him and beat them one-on-one. He has great playmaking abiliy and plays the game with the vision and hockey sense reminiscent of a Sam Gagner.
You take 6’0 frame and you add the word skill, and the usual knock is going to be soft and lazy. Not the case here. Kadri has been often commended for his outstanding work ethic, character and well-rounded game. He is described by Leafs scouting director Dave Morrison as a very competitive player who will drive through checks and plays with an edge. Red Line spoke highly of Kadri’s ability to bring a little nastiness to his game and is at his best when he plays the role of an agitator to get under the skin of his opponents. The knock on Kadri has always been his consistency. Essentially, what the Leafs are doing here with their selection, is they’re hoping to see a lot more of the OHL playoff version of Nazem Kadri: a player who absolutely dominated every shift, created energy every time he was on the ice, and whose potential rivals just about anybody in his draft class. Morrison and the scouting staff went for skill and projection, and that 14 game outburst late in the year showed them a glimpse of the sky high potential Kadri possesses.”
“He has the potential to become the pure offensive talent the Leafs have sorely lacked since Alex Mogilny, but there are definitely some consistency concerns with the London Knight. His stock grew in the lead up to the draft as he often outperformed linemate Tavares during the late stages of the season and playoffs, but he hasn’t manifested that level of effectiveness over significant durations of his junior career. I’m not sure he’s the prototypical Burke pick exactly, but the scouting staff was impressed with his intensity, his feistiness and his capability as a two-way player. Size-wise, he’ll own a decent frame when he fills out. He is also an adept penalty killer, having led the OHL in shorthanded points this past season.”
Nazem Kadri: “Everyone had some doubts about me coming into camp and I think I proved a lot of people wrong and opened some eyes. The bottom line, at the end of the day, I’m being sent back and I have no problem with that. I just have to keep my head held high.”
August 2011 – Jim Hughes, Director of Player Development interviewed for Maple Leafs Annual
“Nazem’s really been putting in a lot of time with head coach Dallas Eakins and assistant coach Gord Dineen working on a lot of small things. Hockey’s a simple game…you play offense with the puck and defensive without the puck. Nazem’s learning to think the game better and understand when he should be above or below the puck based on where he is on the ice. We talked about reinforcing those basic skills such as adjusting your positioning based on where the puck is, getting the puck cleanly from one zone to the next and starting and stopping appropriately on loose pucks.
Nazem’s still growing into his body and learning where he fits in at the NHL level. He’s improving in some of those areas we discussed last year, such as protecting the puck, limiting those turnovers and shortening the length of his shifts. He’s still so young and there will be plenty of growing pains ahead but it’s just a matter of time. He’s going through a natural progression and his work ethic is much further ahead than it was eighteen months ago. It’s going to take time and commitment but we’re going to come out of it with a very good player.”
December 2011 – Advocating for Kadri
“The 22-year-old accelerates with ease and he doesn’t struggle altering skating paths on the ice. His speed and seamless transition offers elusiveness and it complements his knack for mixing things up. The seventh-overall pick is getting stronger with the puck and he displayed increased determination. Kadri’s typically not the biggest player on the ice, but he’s not easily intimidated. He’ll move into traffic when it suits his needs and he’s doing a better job of involving his teammates offensively. The London, Ontario native still has work to do in his own zone and he occasionally loses his positioning. His focus when he’s defending isn’t always there. He has been learning the duties of a winger and is developing a comfort with them. Ultimately, he’s showing an ability to adapt and succeed in either role. He’s ready to play in the NHL and should do just that this season.”
“Now it’s time to let Little Nazzy become a man. Time to see if he can fly.
The trick now is to give him an extended look and try to find somebody who gels with him.
If the Leafs do that and Kadri still can’t cut it, well, then it may be decision time. He’s got another season on his entry-level deal but it’s hard to imagine that if he flunks this audition it’s ever going to happen for him with the Leafs. That happens. A lot. MacArthur’s a great example of a player who didn’t figure it out until his third team and his seventh pro season.
Kadri will almost certainly be an NHL player. The Leafs just need to find out now if it can be for them.”
August 2012 – Dave Morrison, Director of Amateur Scouting, interview for Maple Leafs Annual
Dave Morrison: “This is certainly going to be a big year for him and we know he’s been putting in lots of work this summer. We’re hopeful that he’s going to make the team and now he’s got to be in a position to make a big impression. Now’s the time for Nazem but we’re not going to hand anything to anyone. He’s going to have to earn it. He’s got a ton of natural ability and with the way his game has come along, we think he’s ready.”
Alex Tran : ” Who is your breakout player for the upcoming season?”
Dave Morrison: “ Ha, well I don’t want to put too much pressure on anybody. Lots of the kids have put themselves in a great position to have big years and we were quite encouraged by what we saw at this summer’s development camp. However, I will tell you that I think Nazem Kadri has a chance to really break through this year. He’s such character kid and he’s put in a lot of time. We’re very excited to see what he can do.”
Present Day 2013
Alex Tran: “Yeah. I think it’s about time to get excited.”