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Leafs need Kadri to take another step

Aug 8, 2013, 4:31 PM EDT

Nazem Kadri Getty Images

The optimists will say Nazem Kadri finally proved he belonged in the NHL last year. They’ll point out the 18 goals and 26 assists he scored in 48 games, his 44 points ranking him second on the Maple Leafs behind Phil Kessel‘s 52. And they’ll conclude that former general manager Brian Burke was wise to make Kadri the seventh overall pick in 2009.

The skeptics, on the other hand, won’t be so sure. They’ll note that Kadri’s shooting percentage of 16.8 percent was abnormally high compared to the league average. They’ll say he was lucky. And they’ll argue the 22-year-old will be hard-pressed to match last year’s rate of production in 2013-14.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? At this point, who knows?

But this is what happens to high draft picks in hockey-mad markets like Toronto. Everything they achieve, or fail to achieve — right down to the appropriate percentage of body fat — is pored over by fans and media.

“It was tough on me for a little bit,” Kadri admitted in February, per the Globe and Mail. “I really don’t think a lot of other people could have been under the scrutiny and under the pressure and have that mental toughness to prevail.”

Plenty of scrutiny and pressure remains in his future though. Early speculation has him centering a line between Joffrey Lupul and David Clarkson, a pair of wingers to which the club has committed a total of $63 million in new contracts. It’s a great opportunity for Kadri, but like they say, to whom much is given, much is expected.

First things first — Kadri, a restricted free agent, needs a new contract for himself.

“We’re in conversation and there’s still some work to be done, but we’re talking and that’s the most important thing,” he said on July 12.

Chances are, a deal will be struck in time for training camp. But getting that done will be the easy part. The hard part will be proving the skeptics wrong.

More Leafs day on PHT:

Bozak, Clarkson contracts were big gambles for Nonis

Reimer vs Bernier — Who ya got?

  1. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 8, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Well, you hope any of your good young players keeps improving. No?

    Hard not to like what Kadri did last year. When NHL coaches are saying he reminds them of Doug Gilmour, he must be doing something right. I’m looking forward to watching him do some damage with Lupul and Clarkson.

    • withseidelinn - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:06 PM

      I’d even love to see Van Riemsdyk ramp it up physically a bit and play with Kadri and Clarkson. I like Lupul-Bozak-Kessel just cause of the great chem they have. I think Kadri would benefit tremendously from having two big, physical wingers at his sides that can bury garbage around the net.

      • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:05 AM

        I’m sure we’ll see a lot of line combinations. Carlyle does like the juggle them. There’s a lot of options too. Lupul and JVR are interchangable on the 1st/2nd line LW. Clarkson and Kulemin on 2nd/3rd line RW are interchangable depending whether you need grit or speed on the 2nd line. Bolland can play C/RW he could see time and the 2nd/3rd lines. McClement and Colborne can play C/LW on the 3rd/4th lines too. Even at center. Kadri could surpass, Bozak for the 1st line center spot. Carlyle’s going to have fun.

  2. scotloucks - Aug 8, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    I doubt he will match his numbers from last year (regular season) …. he had a big head start by playing for the Marlies during the lock out.

    I do believe he will be their top scoring centre and his production in the Playoffs will be way above his production from last year ….. it is called learning and growing. He is afterall, still 22 years old.

    Take a look at Spezza’s numbers at 22 (including the number of games played in the AHL).


  3. phillyphanatic77 - Aug 8, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    Idk if Kadri will be a PPG player this season but I think a safe estimate would be 25 goals 60pts. That’s off his pace from last season but if I was a Leafs fan I’d be fine with that kind of production. To me that shooting % doesn’t mean too much. He’s very skilled and should be a solid NHLer for awhile.

    • sunderlanding - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:08 PM

      That’s a fair assesment.

    • withseidelinn - Aug 8, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      I think the shooting percentage argument is crap. Obviously I’m being optimistic for the guy, but by people just saying he’s “lucky” is a very weak argument. He worked for his chances and put the puck in the net. Pretty simple.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:14 PM

        Totally agree. Shooting % is a statistic that I don’t put much stock in. Just bc it’s high doesn’t mean the player didn’t work for his goals. Luck is involved but it’s not the deciding factor. Even if a player never changes their regimen or the amount of effort they put out, the statistic will vary. Goal scorers find a way to put the puck in the net, even if it takes them more shots in one season and less shots the next. And Kadri is a goal scorer.

  4. vanfoodman - Aug 9, 2013 at 2:06 AM

    Kadri is special. He’ll be as good, if not better, than any player of his generation, including Stamkos, Tavares, Duchene or Karlsson. I think he has an extra dimension those guys don’t have and that’s a mean streak. The kid can be just a tad bit nasty and that may give him the ‘edge’ as it were. The Leafs may have finally found their, albeit more talented, successor to Dougie Gilmour. If it happens, TO will be rockin’ for many, many years to come.

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