I like to think that we all know and understand that Nazem Kadri is a great young player, and that no one around here wants to see him traded over the course of the summer. Just like any good relationship however, I feel like it's important to express our love -- that is, we should re-state our confidence in the man who is still the Leafs' best centre. Sometimes it's good just to say it, anyway.
For this analysis, I've used five sources of information to examine Kadri's play: 1) what I can see with my eyes, 2) Behind the Net's numbers, 3) Extra Skater's numbers, 4) Hockey Analysis' WOWY stats, and 5) age comparable point production from Hockey-Reference.
It's obvious to anyone who watches Kadri play what makes him such a dangerous young forward: his hands. Kadri is a long ways from being the best player on the Leafs, but his hands are probably the best this team has seen since since the days of Doug Gilmour. Again, there are many players who were (and are) overall superior players, but not even the likes of Mats Sundin or Alexander Mogilny were slick in the same way that Kadri is. Sure, his tendency to hang onto the puck gets him into trouble sometimes, but on a team where no one seems to like having possession of the puck, it's a relief to see a player who coach Randy Carlyle hasn't totally broken yet.
Kadri's skating isn't fantastic (either his top end speed or his first three strides) and it's not like he's totally above looping around for the back check instead of stopping and starting, but although he has some warts on his game (to borrow a phrase from Moneyball) he still brings a lot to the table, and it's obvious when watching him play with anyone other than David Clarkson.
The Behind The Net Numbers
Let's start with the simple stuff we know best:
|NAME||POS||GP||TOI/60||Corsi Rel QoC||Corsi QoC||Corsi Relative||Corsi On||On-Ice Sh%||On-Ice Sv%||PDO||Pens Taken/60||Pens Drawn/60||Off Zone Start %||Off Zone Finish %|
Amongst Leafs forwards with a minimum of 10 GP, Kadri has the Leafs' best Corsi On and Rel while maintaining reasonable Corsi Rel QoC and Corsi QoC numbers -- at least by Leafs standards. His zone starts are cushy (relative to his teammates), but at least at the end of his shift, the puck is in the same end just as often. On top of that, he's a penalty-drawing machine, even if he takes his share of minor penalties. At least he doesn't get into pointless fights and take him out of the game. His PDO is just a bit high, and his on-ice shooting percentage is too, but I don't think many of us are terribly worried about his scoring touch.
All in all, these aren't really the numbers of a player with big defensive problems. It sure looks like his reputation as an offence-first player are a bit overblown, but let's dig deeper.
Extra Skater Numbers
OK, so here is where the numbers start to match up with what we see, which makes me believe them more. Kadri is 3rd last amongst forwards on the team in both Fenwick events against and Corsi events against (minimum 10% of team games being played). If we look at CA per minute of TOI he slips to only the 5th worst forward on the team, behind each of the players on the Leafs' top line plus Joffrey Lupul. OK, so clearly Kadri is allowing a lot of shots and creating enough to balance it out. The notion that he's not a defensive stalwart shouldn't shock anyone.
If we look at Kadri's offensive zone start percentage, we can see that it's higher than any other forward on the team, which suggests that his point totals would suffer if he saw less cushy deployment. Of course, if the Leafs just chased the puck in their own zone less often, a 49% OZ start number wouldn't look so cushy. Here's hoping that a change of coach can fix some of that.
Seeing that Kadri's shooting percentage was 13.51% this season suggests that he'll regress, but his career numbers are almost exactly the same, so it's looking increasingly possible that Kadri is just a high percentage shooter. Besides, 13% isn't even that wild next to Tyler Bozak's career 16.71%.
Maybe this is the best indicator of Kadri's talent. It's true that he's no shut-down forward, but on balance does he make his teammates better or worse? I've looked at the last three seasons over at Hockey Analysis, using only teammates with whom Kadri played a minimum of 100 minutes in a given season.
In all, there are 31 player seasons, and Kadri has made all but 4 of them better:
|With Kadri||Without Kadri|
These figures are rather clear-cut: Kadri has made the teammates that play with him better.
He's still young!
If we look at this list from Hockey-Reference, we can see that Kadri is 73rd amongst forwards in points per game since the 2004-05 lockout who were 23 and under. If we restrict the list to players who played in 5 seasons between 18 and 23 years old we wind up with this list:
Suffice it to say that Kadri is in good company with the offensive production he has put forth so far. It's true that he has played fewer games than any other player on this list had by the time they turned 23, but that probably speaks more to the Leafs' developmental strategies more than anything.
To Wrap up
Yes, Kadri has his defensive shortcomings -- we saw that clearly in the Extra Skater numbers -- but every other source of information we have (including our eyes) tells us that Kadri is a player who is offensively gifted enough to more than make up for this.
It's probably safe to assume that if and when Kadri gets a new coach, a lot of these defensive shortcomings are going to appear less and less significant. At least, that's what we have to hope for.
For now, I think it's safe to say that the Leafs would be absolutely mad to trade Kadri for anything but a bona fide elite centre. He's already producing at a fantastic rate for a second line C -- he's 63rd amongst centres in 5v5 P/60 in the league -- and still has room to get better.