I've been wondering lately what level of production we might reasonably be able to expect out of Nazem Kadri in the next couple of years. The expection since he's been drafted seems to have been that he'll develop either into, ideally, the Leafs #1 centre, and if not, then into a very good #2 centre. How reasonable is that, though?
In order to try to figure that out, I decided to compile the numbers for the draft picks between 5 & 9 (ie. inclusive of two picks above and below Kadri) for the past 5 years to see what kind of production players picked in that draft range tend to have. To do this, I made a spreadsheet that includes all the forwards drafted at those positions; defencemen and goalies develop more slowly and have different relevant stats, so they haven't been included. That isn't too big a deal though, because 19 of the 25 players drafted at those positions during those years were forwards.
I've compiled point production for four years here: each player's second last year of junior (Jnr1), their last year of junior (Jnr2), their rookie season, and the last full NHL season (2009-10). I've counted rookie seasons using the standard NHL measure of 25 game, so a rookie season for my purposes was the first season a player played at least that many games in the NHL. Any player who has played none or less than 25 was given N/A. I also only included pre-NHL statistics for players with CHL experience, since leagues like the NCAA and the Swedish junior elite league aren't statistically comparable.
Spreadsheet - 5-9 Pick Production, 2004-2008
I don't know if there's any one clear point that jumps out, so here are a few smaller ones I'm noticing:
- Only one player, Peter Mueller, has surpassed 50 points his rookie year. Sam Gagner, at 49, was pretty close. Mueller has fallen off since, while Gagner has remained above 40 points each year so far. So the fact that Kadri looks unlikely to score that many points isn't unusual.
- Kadri's currently on pace for 24 points. That puts him in roughly the same range (19-29 points) as 6 of the players here, the largest 10-points cluster. Those players are Mikkel Boedker, Josh Bailey, Phil Kessel, Derick Brassard, James Sheppard, and Rotislav Olesz.
- Only one of these players has turned into a legitimate elite player so far - Phil Kessel. By the end of the year we may very well be including Logan Couture in that category. So the odds of Kadri getting there don't look good.
- About a quarter of these players has hit the 50 point mark: Kessel, Okposo, Voracek, and Mueller. Couture seems pretty likely to get there too. While this info isn't in the spreadsheet, only one player has ever had 60 points or more in a season (Kessel, with exactly 60 points). It seems like the potential high point for Kadri over the next few years is in the low 50s, not good enough for a #1 centre on a competitive team.
- It gets worse though, when you consider that all the players to hit that 50 point mark are wingers, excepting for Mueller's unusual rookie campaign.
- The players with the most similar junior numbers and NHL rookie season to Kadri are James Sheppard (virtually identical numbers) and Jakub Voracek (slightly higher numbers).
- Unrelated to Kadri, but the Blue Jackets drafted 4/19 of these players, about one out of five. High draft picks haven't really helped them much.
So what can we expect out of Kadri? The statistics are kind of all over the place, so it's hard to pin down, but if we want to look at players that Kadri's stats line up with so far, he could either be James Sheppard (let's hope not, but the stats line up) or Jakub Voracek (more likely, I hope, but still not really a top-line player). The odds of him becoming a top line player are not very good, based on his draft position and point production to date.