Nazem Kadri has faced enormous expectations ever since his name was called by then-Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke at the 2009 NHL entry draft.

Most scouts had Kadri pegged as a prospective 2nd line center. In the eyes of the Toronto media, a player of his skillset and creativity brought about visions of what could possibly become the elusive first line center the Buds have coveted since the departure of Mats Sundin, one that would help resurrect the franchise and ultimately lead the team’s brigade towards success. In a crazed hockey market like Toronto, sky-high expectations are in the nature of the beast and something that talented young players will always have to deal with.

Fast forward to the 2014-15 season and we can now better project Kadri’s career potential. On the surface, Kadri’s point production is extremely impressive given the amount of ice time he has received as a Leaf. Out of all 144 centers to play 1000+ minutes since the start of the 2012-13 season, Kadri’s 2.25 points per 60 minutes at even strength ranks 8th. Notable considering that the 30th ranked center managed 1.91 points/60. Any rate higher than that technically qualifies as scoring at a first line pace. Players ranked below him include the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, John Tavares, Pavel Datsyuk, Claude Giroux, Henrik Sedin, Anze Kopitar and the list of goes on.

His production looks even more impressive when you consider the fact that in that span, he spent 79.3% of his 5v5 ice time away from Toronto’s most dangerous offensive weapon in Phil Kessel (2.50 Points/60 from 2012-2015) and had a Zone Start percentage of only 46.4%. In addition, of the 7 centers ahead of him in points/60, Kadri played with the weakest linemates and received the lowest Zone Start %…


Reassuringly, Kadri vastly outperforms production expectations based on both TOI% of Teammates and Zone Start %…

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Scoring is evidently important, but so is controlling play. A look at Kadri’s underlying numbers indicate that his exceptional scoring pace is in fact sustainable. I tweeted the following graph on Monday that gives an idea of how effective Nazem Kadri has been at generating offense this season…


We can go beyond visually accounting for context by using Usage Adjusted Possession Rates – which are essentially raw Corsi rates modified up or down based on a player’s zone starts, Corsi quality of teammates and competition. Here are Kadri’s 2014-15 Usage Adjusted Possession Rates compared to each team’s top Center in terms of all-situation ice time per game…


Nazem Kadri’s Usage Adjusted Corsi% of 54.2% currently ranks better than 8 of the NHL’s 30 top line centers (Oh hey there Tyler Bozak!). This graph also serves as another example of his ability to create opportunities for his linemates (no other Center currently has a higher U.A. CF60). However, it is worth noting that he still needs to work on his defensive game as his career U.A. CA60 is 57.43 (3.88 CA60 above average).

Considering all of the evidence in aggregation, it appears that Nazem Kadri has all the tools required to be a sufficient first line center for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Elite production supplemented with the ability to tilt the ice in the right direction is a rare and highly sought-after combination. The output is there – right now it’s just a matter of opportunity.