December 04 2011 01:05AM
A franchise long derided for the poor quality of its farm system appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance. After Leafs' prospect Joe Colborne was named the AHL Player of the Month for October, Nazem Kadri matched his achievement by earning Player of the Month honours for the Marlies in November.
After going scoreless with a minus-2 rating in his first pair of contests on the farm, Kadri turned things around in November. He picked up four assists and a minus-2 rating over the first five games of the month, but then exploded for six goals seven assists over the next 13 games, finishing with a grand total of 17 points in 12 games along with a plus-2 rating overall. Almost as impressively, he fired 45 shots on net in the month of November, nearly averaging four shots per game. Twenty-five of those shots came in the month's final five contests.
Kadri has carried his scoring over into December, with three points and eight shots in the two games he's played so far.
Kadri's performance compares well to Joe Colborne's work in October. The Leafs' other star forward prospect recorded 16 points in nine games (eight goals, eight assists) and a plus-8 rating, but relied far more on a high shooting percentage than Kadri has, scoring those eight goals on just 27 shots (three per game).
Regardless, the Marlies have been successful with either player in the lineup. A 13-6-4 record, good enough to lead the pack in the AHL's North Division. Kadri, Colborne, and Joey Crabb (also now with the Leafs) all played an important role for the Marlies, but by no means does the trio constitute the entirety of Toronto's offense. Marcel Mueller leads the team in scoring with 21 points, while Mike Zigomanis (20 points) and Ryan Hamilton (16 points) have also been offensive threats down on the farm. Simon Gysbers, with nine points in 16 games, has been the most potent blue-liner.
The consecutive Player of the Month titles underscore exactly how important both Kadri and Colborne are as individuals in the long-term plans of the Maple Leafs. The success of the Marlies organization as a whole, however, speaks to the depth in all areas that the Leafs organization has at its disposal.