On The Leafs’ Cheap Forward Radar: Nazem Kadri


 Yeah, but can he punch faces with those hands?– Photo via Reuters

As I outlined earlier the Leafs have two “Top 9 Forward” spots to fill this offseason. These spots currently belong to Colby Armstrong and Matthew Lombardi. One of them is Nazem Kadri’s to lose.  

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Nazem Kadri was the first draft pick of Brian Burke during his tenure as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was “the kid” Bryan Murray wanted in the 2009 Entry Draft. Since then he has demonstrated that he has the ability to be a dynamic offensive player in the NHL, but that he is also prone to lapses in the defensive zone. He has followed what would be considered a normal development path in most NHL cities, but in Toronto it has him labelled as a “bust”. Thanks to some excellent work over at Bleeding Blue and White we know that is simply not true.
BCapp did the unthinkable and actually compared Nazem Kadri to his draft class to get a handle on his development. What did he find? 

Bleeding Blue and White

 This chart shows the NHL GP of each player drafted in the first round of the 2009 entry draft. The black line represents the average of 74 GP; Nazem has played 51GP. However, as BCapp explained the average was skewed heavily by the Top 4 taken that year. If we remove those four the average GP for forwards drafted 5-30 is 43GP. Kadri is above that mark. 

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Kadri has also produced better than average offensively. 

Bleeding Blue and White


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Once again the Top 4 players have skewed the numbers, so by looking at forwards drafted 5-30 we see that Kadri has produced better than average on a GPG and PPG basis. 
This is all well and good, but the time has come for Kadri to take hold of a regular spot on the Leafs’ roster. He has done all he can at the AHL level: 81 Pts in 92 regular season games and 10 points in 11 playoff games. He has produced ahead of the majority of players in his draft class in the NHL and deserves a long term look with the big club. Some people think that you should not develop players in the NHL, this is true to a certain extent. Kadri needs to be allowed to struggle in the NHL without being sent down to the AHL. 
As Cam noted, Kadri also happens to be one of the only Leafs who consistently moves the puck in the right direction. When looking at last year’s player usage chart Cam found that

Kadri’s quality of competition and offensive zone start rate were both slightly easier than the NHL average, but he at least performed, with the second biggest blue circle on the team—his Corsi Rel rate of 10.9 was the second highest behind two-way threat Mikhail Grabovski.

The Leafs’ third line needs to get a whole lot better and a whole lot cheaper. Nazem Kadri and his $1.75 million cap-hit will help them do both.  

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