Lancione takes a look at Nazem Kadri's incredibly 2013 campaign.
It is amazing what can transpire over the course of two months in hockey. Often times, athletes struggle to combine their natural gifts with the polish, the effort, the discipline, the defensive awareness and sense of responsibility at the same time.
Through nine weeks it would appear that Nazem Kadri, almost four years removed from his draft day, has finally made his mark on the NHL. Sitting in eighth place in the NHL scoring race, Kadri is really proving to be a boon to Randy Carlyle’s Leafs. To think that Nazem was deemed to be in “unacceptable shape” by Dallas Eakins upon arriving in camp this fall.
It would appear to most observers, fans and pundits alike at AHL training camp that the strides Nazem made last spring in assisting the Marlies on their Calder Cup run weren't going to carry over. It was much documented that he was lacking conditioning wise. However, upon further review it could be seen as a little rust that had to be shaken off as his summer plan set for him by upper brass and former GM Brian Burke was carried through in full.
Then again, for decades wasn’t training camp all about shaking the rust off? Sure, times have changed and guys all over the league no longer take months off at a time before taking the old blades out for their first skate the final week of August. Yes, naturally that’s a thing of the past, but Kadri’s sluggishness may have been induced by his newly beefed up frame, as per his off-season regimen. He did put together a decent AHL campaign during the NHL lockout. However, when placed alongside talented professionals on the big club, his skillset has certainly been much more transparent.
He’s been playing with a number of different guys, performing admirably with all of them, most notably the mix and match, skill and grit linemates of Frattin and Komarov, as per Frozen Pools’ Most Frequent Line Combination Generator.
The last few games have seen him tried with Joffrey Lupul a bit as well, in reaction to the five game losing streak they just ended against Tampa Bay. The following list which tracks his most recent linemates over the past three games actually understates Lupul’s increasing appearances on Kadri’s left wing, as it doesn’t factor in that Lupul missed last game (one third of this sample size) to suspension. Is it a fluke that Lupul scored three goals in his two games back from a near full season layoff to date? I think not.
In addition to Kadri being situated in eighth in the NHL’s scoring charts, he also places eighth in FP’s Big Board Ranking, incorprating far more elements than points scored.
Big Board (Player Power Rankings – Factoring in numerous offensive categories)
Frozen Pools sports a fantastic comparison tool which I’ll use to breakdown where Kadri ranks amongst his fellow 2009 Draft Class contemporaries from the top of the first round.
You’ll notice below that Kadri, once thought to be a perhaps a bust amongst the top seven picks in the first round of the 2009 draft class, is outperforming all of the heavy hitters from the very same 2009 draft thus far. Yes, even out-producing the likes of John Tavares, Matt Duchene & Evander Kane astonishingly enough!
It’s not just points we’re looking at either, take a peak below at some other categories in which he’s dominated the above mentioned contemporaries. For instance, his +/- (+19) destroys Tavares’ (-8), his powerplay time on ice per game is far less than the other four stars at just over two minutes per game, his assist total of 19 his higher than the rest, and so on and so forth.
Of course it would be foolish to suggest that these same statistical advantages Kadri has achieved over these established stars (Brayden excluded to a degree, who is also still growing and developing) would still be had by Nazem over a full season. There surely would be a correction and most likely we still have time to see one in this shortened season. However, the fact that up until as recently as February 18th, he was still receiving third line type minutes (14:58 per game), makes his season stats all the more impressive. Speaking of ice time, over the course of five weeks, we’ve seen it gradually balloon, hitting almost 22 minutes in last night’s outing in Buffalo. An incredible 50% increase from last month!
His overall game has been truly elite of late, surprising even myself who in my most optimistic preseason forecasts admittedly pegged him as a third line middle of the road contributer at the NHL level for this season. In the meantime, enjoy the ride, but keep your expectations in moderation as he’s not excluded from the peaks and valleys that all players face.
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