One positive that came out of Thursday night’s frustrating loss to the Hurricanes was another goal for Nazem Kadri. That’s a total of three now since being called up four games ago.
However, the statistics doesn’t tell the entire story with Kadri so far – it’s been much more than that. He’s evolving into a improved possession player with elite playmaking skills before our eyes.
We’ve watched him thread a perfect saucer pass to an incoming forward, while just barely keeping the puck onside. We have we seen him circle around the offensive zone, looking for passing or shooting options, and if they aren’t there, patiently make another go around. We have we seen him either in the slot, dishing pucks back and forth with Connolly, and we’ve seem him down low cycling with MacAthur. Heck, we’ve even see Kadri follow an assignment of being the primary net presence on a power-play – and the kid is just 6’0/188.
The defensive commitment the second year pro has shown has been much improved. His play without the puck isn’t picture perfect, but the commitment he’s shown to hustling back to negate odd man rushes and offensive chances, grinding it out in the corners for puck possession, and finishing his checks and engaging in physical battles, have all been promising sights. Especially considering how far he has come in just one year.
This could be just a hot streak, it could be that he’s finally getting to play with talented NHL players, but one thing is for certain: Nazem played his way onto the power-play and into top-six minutes. That’s not fluke or luck, it’s his skill that is finally translating to the NHL successfully. It speaks to how well he has played so far in his fifth tour of duty, and how he as virtually forced Wilson to start playing more.
Earlier in the season, when Toronto had a rash of injuries, Burke was asked why Kadri’s name wasn’t called. Burke aptly replied, “We want his next call-up to be his last”. Maybe, just maybe, the experienced professionals running this team know what they’re doing.
Onto the Leafs links:
– Michael’s thinking the Leafs are still missing something, even with the surprising success so far, and he’s right
– Some interesting thoughts on the Leafs competitive window (it’s just beginning) and whether Toronto should trade a young defenseman
– Jeff Veillette talks about Leafs‘ fans lack of patience and bipolar personalities
– Puck Daddy ranks their best of the past year
– Just kidding, but he will be on the ice for the Alum game before the Winter Classic