When Leafs forward Nazem Kadri was called up from the Marlies last week, many thought it would be the last chance he would get to show what he was capable of at the NHL level. Many felt that the seventh overall pick in 2009 has had enough chances to prove himself, and at this stage in his career he should already be making an impact on a big league roster. Kadri has largely been viewed as a disappointment to Leafs Nation and many feel the recent call-up is to showcase his talent as trade bait. In other words, he’s never going to live up to the hype and they can’t wait to get him out of town.
Let’s put things into perspective. He turned just 21 this past October and this is only his second season as a pro hockey player. He was a high draft pick, but not every first rounder is good enough at the age of 18 to come into the NHL and earn a roster spot. The majority of players are seasoned in the minors or the Russian/European pro leagues before they are ready to take the leap to the NHL. Only a handful of special players can make a significant impact at that age.
Leafs Nation was all excited a few weeks ago when the trade rumour of Bobby Ryan possibly coming to Toronto was the talk of the town. Imagine a young, talented forward like Bobby Ryan in a Leaf uniform!
If only the Leafs could draft someone like that…
If the way Leafs Nation has treated Nazem Kadri is any indication of how high draft picks get treated in Toronto, then had the Leafs drafted Ryan, he would have been booted out of town before he had the chance to score 30 goals in three straight seasons – that’s how young Kadri really is.
At this year’s Christmas break - the third season since Kadri was drafted - he has played 35 career NHL games and has recorded 5 goals and 10 assists, totaling 15 points. At the same point in Bobby Ryan’s career he had played just 8 games, recording just three goals. Ryan finished that season with 23 games played, five goals and five assists for 10 points. After that season, he went on to score 30 goals in three straight seasons, but it took him three years to get there.
Kadri is ahead of the curve when you compare him to Ryan at the same age. He already has more games played, more points and has the same amount of goals that Ryan had at the end of the third season after he was drafted, and Kadri has the rest of the season to add to his numbers. It makes you wonder how patient Leafs Nation would have been with a 2nd overall pick that took three full years before he was ready for stardom.
No one is saying Nazem Kadri is the next Bobby Ryan, but it is way too early to give up on him. He might not be untouchable, but in order to trade him at this point in his career, it would have to be a deal that would blow the socks off Brian Burke. No one has ever questioned Kadri’s offensive talent, but he needed time to become stronger and work on his defensive game in order to play at the NHL level.
People forget that Kadri looked as if he was going to make the big club out of training camp and it was an injury that kept him out of the lineup. When he returned from the injury, his great play with the Marlies earned him the AHL player of the month for November. He deserved the recent call-up when the injury bug hit the Leafs last week and it looks like he is finally ready to make an impact in the NHL. Since his promotion, Kadri was given the opportunity to play as a top six forward for the first time and has scored in both games.