Monday, September 27, 2010

Nazem Kadri: Great Expectations

If Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri doesn't start the year in the NHL he certainly won't be the only first round pick from 2009 playing in the minors. Scott Glennie, taken 8th overall, has already been demoted by the Dallas Stars and I'm sure when final training camp cuts are made across the NHL, there will be many other 2009 first round draft picks whose only glimpse of NHL action will be on their TV.

Development Time

One look at the 2008 first round draft, the year prior to Kadri's, reinforces that it takes time for players to develop and crack the NHL. Three of the top 15 draft picks from '08 have yet to play a single NHL game, and four of the top 15 haven't played more than half a season. That's seven out of the top 15 2008 picks still waiting to break through.

Put another way: only five players born in Kadri's birth year, 1991, have played in the NHL and two of those played in one single game.

Only 17 players born in 1990 have cracked the NHL and they've averaged just 46 games to date.

Roll it back one more year to 1989 and, while the number nearly doubles, only 31 '89 born players have laced them up in the bigs so far, averaging a total of 52 games played in their careers.

For all the talk about the NHL becoming a young man's league, last season only 53 of over 700 players were 20 and under - that's about 3% of the NHL.

Making Plans for Nigel Nazem

Now, I'm not making excuses for Kadri and I'm not saying he's a bust. He certainly doesn't look so hot compared to the pre-season that Magnue Paajarvi-Svensson, drafted 10th, is having in Edmonton. I also I have no idea as to what's best for Kadri's long-term development, but I don't think starting in the AHL is an indictment of a player's talent or character.

If Kadri isn't with the Leafs out of training camp next year, then it's time to worry. For now, it looks like he's following the typical development curve.

As a long-time follower of this franchise, it's nice to see the Leafs not rush a prospect for once.


  1. I've got no issues with Kadri starting with the Marlies. Let him play 18 minutes a game down there. It can't hurt. What bothers me are Wilson and Burke's comments. Wilson publicly saying "[Kadri] showed me he likes to turn the puck over, and that he needs to sharpen his skates" helps no one. Especially not Nazem.

  2. Navin - I think you hold the record for fastest comment ever.

    I agree with you, I really don't understand the Leafs' approach to Kadri this pre-season: from the public throwing under the bus to the photo in the media room.

  3. I think Wilson desperately wants/needs the Nazem Kadri from last year's training camp. So, he is trying to push every and any button on Kadri's chest to get a response. Otherwise, there will be a lot of pressure on the first line to score.

    I think the post puts things in perspective. We need to give Kadri room to develop. This means waiting until he is 22 before having high expectations. Darryl Sittler didn't have his "breakout" year until age 22. At age 20, he only scored 10 NHL goals.

  4. I think I'm more amazed that you used the adjective "hot" and nary a mention of the weather or recipe was to be found.

  5. Paul Steckley3:56 pm

    The Leafs' handling of Kadri this summer has been confusing to say the least. They sheltered him from the media during the rookie tournament and have said that they don't want to put undue pressure on him to be the saviour of the franchise. Yet recently they have been taking any, and every, opportunity to publicly criticize him.

    His play to date has been a mixed bag of stunning passes, gifted offensive hockey, turnovers, horrible defensive lapses, and a touch of laziness. He's looked like a 19 year old kid who was able to get by on pure skill in junior who needs time to improve his game in order to make the next step. Nothing I have seen to date suggests that he will not be able to do just that if given the proper teaching and some time.

    The Marlies are probably the best thing for him to start the season. I shudder to think what effect Wilson's tirades would have on his psyche if he started the season with the Leafs and struggled like the rookie he clearly is. As your article has mentioned, not every player taken in the first round is ready to play in the NHL immediately. There should not be any rush to push Kadri into the NHL before he's ready to handle it.