July 04 2012 02:44AM
In a conference call after his acquisition of James Van Riemsdyk, Brian Burke mentioned that Nazem Kadri could be looked at to fill a spot at centre ice for the Maple Leafs next year. This might be somewhat surprising to some, as Kadri has played on the wing for nearly every shift of his pro career.
However, during the Calder Cup Playoffs this year Kadri was switched to centre where he obviously impressed Burke with his performance. Actually, it would be tough for anyone not to be impressed with his performance seeing as he was an integral piece to the Marlies Calder Cup final berth (which he unfortunately didn't play in due to injury). He scored three goals and 10 points in 11 AHL playoff games.
Kadri has played 51 games in the NHL after two seasons of being shuttled back and forth between Ricoh and the ACC. His point totals look uninspiring on the surface as he only has 19 points in those 51 games. However, If you pro-rate those 19 points to a full 82 game season he would have 31 points. Not bad for a prospect's first full NHL season.
To go along with adequate point totals Kadri has some nice possession numbers. In his first two NHL seasons he has been one of the better Leafs at driving play towards the opposite goaltender. He was second in Corsi REL to only Grabovski last year and fourth in Corsi REL in 2010/11 with the MGK line all ahead of him. 2010/11's numbers are actually very inspiring: Kadri was one of the best possession players the Leafs had against some pretty tough competition.
Here's a table of Kadri's possession, penalty and scoring stats:
Kadri isn't likely going to please very many fair-weather fans unless he puts together a 40+ season next year - something I fully expect him to come close to doing, if he is given the right opportunity. Unfortunately this right opportunity is Kadri being placed with players that can take pressure off of him and put the puck in the back of the net, something the Maple Leafs don't have an abundance of after Kessel and Grabovski.
Two players that Ron Wilson and Randy Carlyle paired Kadri up with last year were Matt Lombardi and Clarke MacArthur (He played with both around 44% of his TOI). MacArthur is almost exactly the kind of player that will compliment Kadri as he transitions into a fulltime NHL'er: he's good at driving play, has a high sh% and is a near lock to score 20 goals. The reason I mention high sh% as a positive is because Kadri has some nice play making abilities and that should translate into a lot of assists if hes playing with players who normally have a high sh%.