Some Perspective On Nazem Kadri

Claus Andersen

The Leafs' second-line center has had his share of ups and downs this season.

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.

Just watch

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 %
NAZEMKADRI C 72 14.17 0.111 0.687 8.2 -11.05 9 920 1010 0.8 2.1 48 48.9
DAVEBOLLAND C 22 12.22 0.451 -0.682 7.7 -12.5 7.69 914 991 2.5 0 37.1 48.4
PHILKESSEL LW 76 16.71 1.014 1.261 5.9 -12.61 10.36 918 1022 0.2 0.4 44.4 47.7
CARTERASHTON LW 32 6.15 -2.995 -4.693 -0.1 -12.81 6.67 964 1030 0.3 0.9 49.4 46.2
JAMESVANRIEMSDYK RW 74 15.93 1.007 1.291 4.8 -12.93 9.7 916 1013 1 0.8 46.8 48.1
MASONRAYMOND LW 76 13.63 0.335 0.611 3.5 -13.96 8.09 929 1010 0.4 0.8 43.3 49.1
TYLERBOZAK C 54 16.34 1.474 1.435 0.7 -16.12 11.88 912 1031 0.3 0.5 41 46.2
JOFFREYLUPUL RW 64 15.28 0.549 0.596 -1.4 -16.26 9.05 913 1004 0.4 0.9 41.2 49.4
DAVIDCLARKSON RW 54 13.88 0.321 0.881 2.3 -16.49 5.96 929 989 1 0.2 34.7 43.6
FRAZERMCLAREN LW 25 3.98 -4.723 -3.792 -2 -16.86 4.17 950 992 1.8 0.6 45.2 51.3
TROYBODIE RW 43 8.55 -0.399 1.533 0 -17.13 8.28 957 1040 0.3 1.1 43.5 51
PETERHOLLAND C 40 10.62 -0.381 0.733 -3.5 -18.36 8.25 949 1032 1.1 0.7 47 52.2
TREVORSMITH LW 25 9.69 -0.156 -1.393 -8.3 -19.07 5.71 926 984 0.5 1 39.9 45.7
COLTONORR RW 52 5.34 -3.838 -4.333 -5.4 -20.76 6.49 936 1001 1.5 0.4 46.5 41.9
NIKOLAIKULEMIN RW 64 13.21 0.955 1.643 -6 -21.01 8.7 931 1018 0.6 0.8 34.3 45.5
JERRYD'AMIGO RW 20 7.1 -0.276 2.848 -6.8 -21.13 10.42 933 1038 0 2.5 40 46
JAYMCCLEMENT C 75 11.05 -0.068 0.306 -7.5 -22.65 7.46 935 1010 0.9 0.4 28.4 41.8
JERREDSMITHSON C 17 6.97 -2.281 -3.946 -14.6 -31.9 0 927 927 1 1 32.6 46.2

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%.

WOWYs

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
Season Player TOI CF% TOI CF% Better?
2013-14 BERNIER, JONATHAN 671:39:00 45.3 1750:30:00 42.6 better
2013-14 LUPUL, JOFFREY 573:38:00 44.2 449:13:00 40.6 better
2013-14 GARDINER, JAKE 415:32:00 47.7 947:48:00 45.9 better
2013-14 REIMER, JAMES 397:01:00 45.7 1019:41:00 40.5 better
2013-14 FRANSON, CODY 374:25:00 45.7 828:14:00 44.6 better
2013-14 RIELLY, MORGAN 369:15:00 48 719:01:00 42.3 better
2013-14 RAYMOND, MASON 329:31:00 48.6 777:32:00 42.2 better
2013-14 KESSEL, PHIL 299:36:00 46.4 1042:26:00 43.6 better
2013-14 PHANEUF, DION 281:43:00 43.8 1004:32:00 39.9 better
2013-14 VAN_RIEMSDYK, JAMES 271:37:00 48.2 986:08:00 43 better
2013-14 GUNNARSSON, CARL 271:12:00 42.6 951:38:00 39.4 better
2013-14 CLARKSON, DAVID 266:19:00 44.4 555:00:00 41.2 better
2013-14 KULEMIN, NIKOLAI 246:52:00 42.5 672:29:00 40.9 better
2013-14 RANGER, PAUL 197:57:00 45.9 580:34:00 41.2 better
2013-14 GLEASON, TIM 180:49:00 39.6 634:19:00 42.7 worse
2012-13 REIMER, JAMES 402:21:00 47 1056:20:00 41.8 better
2012-13 MACARTHUR, CLARKE 291:09:00 47.8 221:18:00 50 worse
2012-13 FRASER, MARK 242:31:00 47.2 418:15:00 43.9 better
2012-13 FRANSON, CODY 232:25:00 48.9 415:20:00 43.8 better
2012-13 SCRIVENS, BEN 217:45:00 47 589:15:00 44.9 better
2012-13 KULEMIN, NIKOLAI 202:27:00 41.4 443:37:00 40.4 better
2012-13 KOMAROV, LEO 190:57:00 52.6 303:31:00 40.9 better
2012-13 PHANEUF, DION 187:04:00 46.9 646:41:00 40.6 better
2012-13 GUNNARSSON, CARL 179:35:00 45.3 445:27:00 43.9 better
2012-13 FRATTIN, MATT 167:40:00 48.8 143:51:00 47.3 better
2012-13 KOSTKA, MICHAEL 125:30:00 48 470:02:00 46.4 better
2012-13 LUPUL, JOFFREY 124:53:00 41.6 78:38:00 45.3 worse
2012-13 LILES, JOHN-MICHAEL 122:31:00 47.3 365:26:00 43.9 better
2011-12 GUSTAVSSON, JONAS 187:41:00 52.5 1686:22:00 49.2 better
2011-12 LOMBARDI, MATTHEW 115:55:00 48.1 597:49:00 46 better
2011-12 MACARTHUR, CLARKE 111:33:00 48.1 870:03:00 51.9 worse

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:

Rk Player From To Active Pos GP G A PTS PTS
1 Sidney Crosby 2005 2010 5 C 371 183 323 506 1.36
2 Steven Stamkos 2008 2013 5 C 373 208 178 386 1.03
3 Patrick Kane 2007 2012 5 RW 399 126 243 369 0.92
4 Anze Kopitar 2006 2011 5 C 393 138 220 358 0.91
5 John Tavares 2009 2014 5 C 350 136 179 315 0.9
6 Jonathan Toews 2007 2012 5 C 361 144 180 324 0.9
7 Matt Duchene 2009 2014 5 C 337 105 158 263 0.78
8 Erik Karlsson 2009 2014 5 D 315 63 174 237 0.75
9 Phil Kessel 2006 2011 5 C/RW 374 128 117 245 0.66
10 Wojtek Wolski 2005 2010 5 LW 320 79 132 211 0.66
11 Nazem Kadri 2009 2014 5 C 177 46 67 113 0.64
12 Evander Kane 2009 2014 5 C/LW 324 99 101 200 0.62
13 Jakub Voracek 2008 2013 5 RW 367 79 150 229 0.62
14 Sam Gagner 2007 2012 5 C 366 77 143 220 0.6
15 Milan Lucic 2007 2012 5 LW 359 90 122 212 0.59

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.

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