So last night Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail posted an article that outlined the way that Dave Nonis' decision to waive Tim Connolly was paving the way to the NHL for prospect Nazem Kadri. Generally most of what was written made perfectly reasonable sense, and I was actually surprised to yet again be nodding along with a Mainstream Media member's writing in this shortened training camp. It has happened more and more in recent weeks and perhaps the line between the mainstream and our views in this corner of the Barilkosphere are aligning more than they used to? [Editor's Note: this is disturbing...] But I digress...
Anyway, one point made by Shoalts took me back a bit largely because I find it irritating to know that many will read it and agree with it before seriously contemplating it with any depth:
"This is what I want and what I worked so hard for," Kadri, 22, said. He struggled to establish himself as an NHLer since being taken seventh overall in the 2009 entry draft, putting up just 19 points in 51 games with the Leafs.
But after playing well in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies during the lockout, Kadri hit the ice at full speed last Sunday when the Leafs opened their training camp.
- Dave Shoalts, Globe & Mail, Jan. 17th 2013
Except there's a problem with this statement...
Has Nazem Kadri really struggled? Why would we want people in Toronto to think he's struggled? Oh right - because we (actually THEY - the MSM) anointed Kadri as a black and white character in their narrative. Either franchise saviour or NHL prospect bust. You know - one of the many that litter the path leading from 1967 to wherever the hell the Leafs organization is at this point in their non-development plan.
We could talk about Luke Schenn's abortive early attempt to be the face of the franchise, snuffed out with an off-season deal by Brian Burke to bring in another former blue-chip prospect in James Van Riemsdyk but I'll leave that for another posting.
I'm getting a bit off track here though, and where I'm going with this is: Why is 19 points in 51 games played in limited minutes, with less than stellar support, by an NHL player, BEFORE he has turned 23 - considered to be "struggling".
As Chemmy pointed out in this posting - Nazem Kadri is actually pretty damn close developmentally to the consensus TOP 10 NHL PROSPECT Brayden Schenn. How high are people on Brayden Schenn? Well... let's see... ESPN Fantasy Report has him listed FIRST on their Rising Forwards ranking (now 56th best in the NHL!). Yes that's right - the guy whose PPG production rate is actually WORSE than Nazem Kadri's in the NHL so far is going to rip up the NHL everyone... oh by the way if you want to LAUGH YOUR ASS OFF read the following from the linked article:
Schenn will be looked at to anchor the team's secondary scoring and possibly play a first-unit role on the power play (maybe even with his brother Luke Schenn on the point).
- Sean Allen, ESPN, Jan 8th 2013
That's right everyone - Brayden Schenn is going to dominate the Flyer's PP and Luke Schenn will be playing the POINT ON THE POWER PLAY. Good god it's like they don't watch the games OR read the statistics... which makes me wonder what the hell it takes to become an ESPN analyst [Editor's Note: strong opinions and a loud voice] ... just kidding (I know some of you - yes the ones that might be reading this posting - actually do a decent job - but seriously? Luke Schenn on the point on the power play?)
Anyway - so Brayden Schenn is going to light the NHL on fire because he has 33 points in 33 AHL games for Adirondack. This is the same Schenn that only has 11 points in his last 16 AHL games. The same Schenn that has only scored 2 goals since December 8th... despite playing 11 games since then... DOMINATING.
But wait... Kadri only has 11 points in his last 12 AHL games. He's only scored 2 goals since December 8th.... in 6 games... but but but.... why the hell isn't Kadri rated 56th overall in the NHL fantasy draft package on ESPN?
Who else is way ahead of Kadri developmentally? Well of the forwards selected around him in the 2009 entry draft - here are all of the ones that have MORE NHL games played than he does:
|1||New York Islanders||John Tavares||C||243||84||118||202||0.83|
|3||Colorado Avalanche||Matt Duchene||C||219||65||85||150||0.68|
|4||Atlanta Thrashers||Evander Kane||LW||213||63||63||126||0.59|
|98||Nashville Predators||Craig Smith||C||72||14||22||36||0.50|
|24||Washington Capitals||Marcus Johansson||C||149||27||46||73||0.49|
|33||Colorado Avalanche||Ryan O'Reilly||C||236||39||68||107||0.45|
|7||Toronto Maple Leafs||Nazem Kadri||C||51||8||11||19||0.37|
|10||Edmonton Oilers||Magnus Paajarvi||LW||121||17||25||42||0.35|
|149||Chicago Blackhawks||Marcus Kruger||C||78||9||17||26||0.33|
|5||Los Angeles Kings||Brayden Schenn||C||63||12||8||20||0.32|
|25||Boston Bruins||Jordan Caron||RW||71||10||12||22||0.31|
|20||New Jersey Devils||Jacob Josefson||C||69||5||14||19||0.28|
|127||New York Rangers||Roman Horak||C||61||3||8||11||0.18|
|129||Dallas Stars||Tomas Vincour||C||71||5||7||12||0.17|
|35||Los Angeles Kings||Kyle Clifford||LW||157||12||14||26||0.17|
|40||Edmonton Oilers||Anton Lander||C||56||2||4||6||0.11|
So let's review: he's played more games than all but 15 forwards in his draft year; he's outscored all but 11 forwards from his draft year; and on a per game basis he's outscored all but 6... but he's STRUGGLING.
To be fair, he isn't developing at a rate one would expect of a dominating offensive talent. In comparison to other top end 1st round draft picks, his progress has been slow. Some of that is due to how the Leafs have limited his progress by bringing in veterans such as recently traded Matt Lombardi and waived Tim Connolly to play ahead of him. This may be because his draft year might be poor and he might not ever develop into a top line player but to call a 22 year old who is quite possibly AHEAD of (supposedly) future All-Star Brayden Schenn developmentally a bust? Why that's just crazy talk.
I'm not suggesting we should all expect Kadri to develop into a point per game superstar at this point - far from it. What I am suggesting is that everyone should perhaps consider dialling it down a notch on the Kadri crazy-meter. Rather than oscillating between "Kadri = Superstar" or "Kadri = Bust" [Editor's Note: like one idiot Jays fan that harrassed the two of us on Twitter based on "hey man, the media tells me he sucks so I agree without reservation'] we could perhaps try to take the more holistic and reasonable outlook on his career thus far.
He's most certainly an NHL caliber player. He's likely going to produce SOME offense, though not in a dominating fashion anytime soon. At this rate I think we should be happy if he develops into a consistent 2nd line performer that posts 40-50 points in the NHL. At his peak, he might get near the 60-65 point plateau based on his development thus far but unless he shows a sudden burst in production it's doubtful he does much beyond that.
Here are his closest comparables in terms of games played (40-75 gp across 2-3 seasons), ice time (at least 500 mins), point production (0.75-1.75 pts/60) within their first 3 NHL seasons prior to the age of 23 since the 2002-03 season:
Looking at this list of players, I think it's reasonable to include him in the Boychuk, Caron, Matthias, Schenn, Bowman development group. Most of those players are highly thought of prospects that don't get nearly the bad rap Kadri does. If they all develop reasonably, and pan out into a Callahan, Stoll, or go gang busters at the high end and end up like a Mike Cammalleri... well that seems pretty exciting frankly.
With where he fits on this list, I'd say Kadri is going to contribute positively long term but it's extremely doubtful he's a future star in the NHL. Other noteworthy players that came up in the proximity of this search were Patrick Sharp (a bit below) and Clarke MacArthur (a bit above).
Take this information as a guide when you consider where some of these prospects are likely to end up. Kadri isn't a saviour as many may paint him to be - he's not even likely to be a top line player. But he isn't particularly "struggling" either.