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Top 25 Under 25 - #3 Nazem Kadri

Kadri's emergence as an NHL player (apologies to Darren Dreger) sees him move up into the Top 3 of our countdown.

Happier times... sign.
Happier times... sign.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Internet show of hands, please.

If you had done a tremendous job at your work in the last year, even if luck played a factor in your success, you would be within your rights to seek additional compensation, right? You would hope that your work would not go unnoticed, especially when other co-workers, who are even more undeserving of rewards, saw a significant increase in their pay, right? If someone told you that you should just "accept what they offer you", you'd kind of want to punch them in the mouth, right?

That's kind of where I'm at with the ongoing Nazem Kadri negotiation. Whether I agree with what Bob McKenzie has reported he's asking, or whether I agree that the Leafs should be seeking a lower contract "bridge" type deal, all this mindless chatter from "MLSE's PR guy at TSN" (trademark @mc79hockey) irritates me. As if people have chosen to ignore the fact that over four years Nazem Kadri has done everything the Leafs organization has asked of him to evolve into a potential top-six NHL forward, and after a revelatory (shortened) NHL season, suddenly we are back to square one, with all the nits being picked, and pretty innocuous criticisms being blown into major flaws.

Don't believe a word of it. Darren Dreger can crow all he wants about how Kadri is "as much an AHL player as an NHL player" (which, I wonder what Darren thinks that makes a ugy like Colton Orr?); the fact remains that Nazem Kadri is an NHLer. A good one, in fact. And with that in mind, Kadri has joined the upper echelon of our countoown, garnering consideration for #1, and landing at #3 this time around.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans have a nasty habit of focusing on the negatives and ignoring the positives in their skill players. While an extremely limited fourth line player quickly becomes a fan favourite based on the ocassional goal, the frequent fight, and Don Cherry's propoganda pulpit, a player who actually makes a difference in what the score of the game ends up run out of town over minor imperfections.

Sure, the only players since the first lockout to score more goals by age 25 than Phil Kessel are five of the best players in the world, but does he backcheck? (He does). Well, he's soft.

If a player like Kessel has to put up with this impossible standard, what chance does a guy like Kadri have? Fans harp on the one turnover Kadri makes in the offensive zone trying to create a scoring chance, but ignore Kadri tracking back to cover defensively, and ignoring the three other similar plays where Kadri used his fantastic stickhandling and offensive sense to create a chance out of nothing, or failing that draw a penalty.

Kadri possesses top six skill, has worked hard on his defensive responsibilities, and remains a young forward in the Leafs system with dynamic potential. This current contract situation aside, he's going to be an important member of the Maple Leafs this season and going forward. By our estimation, he's the third-best Leaf under the age of 25, but only just.

clrkaitken birky SteveBurtch Chemmy SkinnyFish BowerPower JP Nikota PPP 67Sound Rank
1 3 3 2 2 3 2 3 2 3

EDITION 2 - 4/41
EDITION 1 - 6/45

The battle for 1st place on this year's countdown was just that this year; a battle. Without one dominant player to soak up all votes, for the first time in PPP Top 25 Under 25 history we had a split ballot at 1st overall, with three players receiving a vote for 1st place.

While the rest of the panel did not see Kadri as having earned the top position yet, digging into the numbers I found that neither of the other contenders had accomplished to date what Kadri did this season.

At the same age, JVR was also part of the supporting cast for a potent offensive team in Philly. The difference is JVR had 35 points in 75 games, and Kadri had that many points in half the number of games. Laviolette never played Colton Orr on JVR's line, either

Kadri's 258 points were well clear of Morgan Rielly, and just 3 points behind our runner-up, and 5 points behind our champion. It was close this year.

Kadri's developed nicely, and even though I expect he won't maintain his 12-13 scoring pace, he's a very strong top six center.
Bower Power