How does Nazem Kadri compare with his draft class?
The first four players taken in the 2009 Draft are all established NHL’ers at this point. John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene and Evander Kane have all played more than 100 games, and all are being relied on to play an important role in their respective clubs’ seasons this year.
Beyond that, the picture gets a little murkier, as we see when we look at the cluster of players drafted around Kadri:
- 5th overall – Brayden Schenn – Schenn played one NHL game in 2009-10, and eight games in 2010-11; both seasons he ended up going back to junior after failing to cut it with the Kings. This summer, he was sent to Philadelphia in the Mike Richards deal, and while he’s battled injuries it isn’t clear that he’ll make the opening night roster this season.
- 6th overall – Oliver Ekman-Larsson – The defenseman stayed in Europe immediately after his draft year, putting up decent numbers in Sweden’s second-best hockey league. He split last season between the AHL and NHL, and routinely saw his ice-time sharply curtailed when he did play in the big leagues. He’ll start the year with Phoenix.
- 7th overall – Nazem Kadri – Spent most of last season in the AHL, was in tough for an NHL job before getting hurt.
- 8th overall – Scott Glennie – Glennie hasn’t got a sniff at NHL duty since being drafted, and went scoreless in four AHL games last year. He’s fighting post-concussion symptoms now, but will start the year in the AHL when healthy.
- 9th overall – Jared Cowen – Cowen’s played one NHL game since being drafted, but thanks to a strong training camp (although the injury to Matt Carkner didn’t hurt his chances either) will start 2011-12 with Ottawa.
- 10th overall – Magnus Paajarvi – Played a strong rookie campaign with the Oilers last season, although he was overshadowed by guys like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Is clearly on the right track.
Beyond that group, most of the other first-rounders are still trying to find their feet as professionals. Ryan Ellis (11th overall) was sent down by the Predators. Calvin de Haan (12th overall) was sent down by the Islanders. Zack Kassian (13th overall) was sent down by the Sabres. For all but a handful, it’s the same story across the board: either they aren’t in the big leagues yet, or their grip on a roster spot is a little tenuous. Guys like Dmitri Kulikov (15th overall, Florida) and Marcus Johansson (24th overall, Washington) are the exception rather than the rule.
When someone like Michael Traikos writes that Kadri is a “growing concern” for the Leafs, it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. He highlights valid worries, and until such time as Kadri establishes himself as an NHL player, those are concerns worth noting. If he’s not strong enough, or not good enough defensively, or whatever the case may be, that does matter.
Still, it needs to be kept in the proper perspective. Kadri isn’t exactly getting lapped by his draft class, and a lot of the criticism of his game can be applied to other players too.