Kadri’s Time To Shine Is Now
November’s AHL player of the month and former first round draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs (seventh overall) Nazem Kadri has been called up by the big club and is expected to be in the lineup when the Maple Leafs play host to the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night.
Kadri, who has been called up by the Maple Leafs numerous times amongst great hype in the past only to quickly fizzle out, has been given yet another opportunity to shine.
With Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul supplying most of the Maple Leafs offense this season, there is plenty of room for a player of Kadri’s considerable offensive talent—the question is, will Kadri showcase his talents this time around or simply fall short of expectations for the umpteenth time?
The road to the NHL has not been easy for Kadri. Injuries, adjusting to the defensive responsibilities at the NHL level and a sometimes uneasy relationship with head coach Ron Wilson have fueled a number of demotions for Kadri.
Known for his offensive creativity, speed and good hands, Kadri has failed to put it all together at the NHL level, registering 13 points in 33 career NHL games.
While many fans and scouts have Kadri pegged as a top-six forward, in order for Kadri to be effective he must find a way to get the Maple Leafs third line going, which is where he is expected to start Thursday night against Buffalo.
Coming off a tremendous 2010-11 season, Toronto’s second unit of Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin has failed to meet expectations. As such, Wilson has chosen to separate the trio on occasion, looking to get them going.
Kulemin and Grabovski are expected to play with Matt Frattin on the second line Thursday night, while Kadri will get his chance on the right wing alongside playmaker Tim Connolly and the gritty Clarke MacArthur on the third line.
In three games with the Maple Leafs this season Kadri registered one assist, averaging just 13 minutes per contest.
With the Maple Leafs desperate to get their bottom-six forwards going it appears as if Kadri may get an extended stay with the Maple Leafs this time around. That said, Kadri has seemingly always been on a short leash with the big club—especially when he has made poor defensive decisions, which often come in bunches.
So, how much has Kadri’s game improved since his last stint with the Maple Leafs?
As mentioned, Kadri received AHL player of the month honors in November, tallying six goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 12 games with the Toronto Marlies.
Kadri (who wears Mats Sundin’s #13 with the Marlies) has improved his positioning and looks to have matured on the ice which has the Maple Leafs believing he can make a difference at the NHL level.
Like many players that get called up—it’s make it or break it time for Kadri. Should he fail to impress, look for his name to be linked to just about every potential deal Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is working on as, it says here, Kadri’s time may be running out with the Blue and White should he falter.
Until next time,