Nazem Kadri was destined to play regular shift in the NHL. Striving to find out where his skills best fit within a roster that was eventually scorched was likely more than he bargained for.
Echoing the words of Brian Burke from June 26, 2009 –
“The Toronto Maple Leafs” . . . (then an 18 second pause to a chorus of boo’s) “are pleased to select . . . from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, Nazem Kadri.”
June 26, 2009 – Brian Burke
. . . and with that the #7 overall pick in 2009 began a career of ebbs and flows. With a little help steering the ship back on course he is now benefiting from a stable and structured Maple Leaf team.
From his draft day forward no other Leaf has received so much attention. The commentary from Leafs Nation and the media had been mostly conjecture and criticism.
Some credit can be directed towards Mike Babcock. The Leafs coach has been able to utilize Kadri. The coach is doing the job he was hired for.
There is no mistaking it though . . . Kadri deserves most of the credit.
Eager, brash and very confident was the Kadri of old. His missteps have been well documented. There is no need to rehash failed expectations, on ice incidents, suspensions and off ice scorn from management. He had trouble living up to the hype and desperation displayed by fans and the hockey mad media during a time of team turmoil.
He talked about scoring, being a leader and being a great Leaf but it just did not come to fruition early on. Deserved or not, Kadri became the punching bag for all. One can only imagine what his thoughts were as he lay his head on his pillow each night. The qualities that perhaps stunted his career early on are also those that helped him weather the storm. At times he was belligerent but always held his head high and moved forward with a determination that is rarely seen.
Eager, brash and confident is the Kadri of today. Though he is a toned down version from 2009. The difference now is his maturity and how he is able to back up that confidence with solid play on the ice.
In the two seasons prior to Austin Matthews being drafted, Kadri played first line minutes and at times it was obvious he was not suited for that roster spot. He soldiered on in a role that was not suited for him but was a necessity for the rebuilding team.
The turn around started last season.
Now he is doing what many thought he should be. Centering a third line playing premiere minutes. What people did not expect was for him to be skating against the top players in the league. The result has been positive and two-fold.
Kadri has been effective against top opposition. Babcock has counted on Kadri to line up against the likes of Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos and Connor McDavid. He has done a good job even in the defeat. Kadri is enjoying success and the world is taking notice.
An unexpected bonus to playing third line minutes is he is on pace to set career highs in goals and points. Perhaps this is the year he can eclipse 30 goals. He is currently on pace to score 36.
Off the ice Kadri appears to be pulling it together. There are no more reports of tardiness or missed team meetings. It appears that Kadri has learned his lessons and has transformed from that cocky boy to a determined man that is proving his worth.
Kadri is now setup to be a successful Leaf and is now able to slide into that leadership role he has coveted over the years.
Welcome to Leafs Nation Nazem Kadri.