Nazem Kadri may (officially or unofficially) be the most maligned individual born in the year 1990. Despite being drafted in 2009 – a draft year which has, realistically, only produced a handful of legitimate NHLers and even fewer impact players (I say Tavares and Duchene are the extent) – Nazem Kadri has taken his lumps, even termed a “bust” by some. In the post-lockout NHL which is more and more clearly becoming a “young man’s league” the patience with which players are groomed is dwindling each year. Fans and pundits are much more willing to demand that a young player make the immediate leap to the NHL or be dangled as trade bait for something better suited to fulfill their need for instant gratification.
Kadri has been a project of sorts for the Leafs and it has nothing to do with the player he is – it has to do with the player they want him to become. The knocks on Kadri coming out of junior were pretty obvious – he was undersized, soft and didn’t play good defensively. Since then? He has bulked up, become much tougher down low and is noticeable on the backcheck. Let’s be clear, he’s not Henrik Zetterberg, not by a long shot. But he is much closer to the player Burke & Co. envisioned when they drafted him in 2009, and still improving at just 21. Here is his third goal since being called up last week.
A lesson for everyone to remember: players develop at their own pace – not the pace people set for them. My prediction for Nazem: finishes the season with the Leafs, accumulates 35-45 points.