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Cullen: Expectations need to be reasonable for Kadri

Scott Cullen
11/12/2010 5:54:56 PM
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With a team unable to score goals, the Toronto Maple Leafs turn to the one player immediately available to them with an offensive pedigree in the hopes of turning around a slide that has seen the Leafs outscored 21-9 on a seven-game winless streak.

Enter Nazem Kadri who, at 20, is the one bona fide offensive performer in the Toronto farm system.

Kadri put up numbers with London in the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 171 points in 112 games, adding 48 points in 26 playoff games, over his last two seasons with the Knights.

In 14 AHL games, with the Toronto Marlies, Kadri has 14 points and a plus-2 rating. To score a point-per-game in the AHL as a 20-year-old is an indicator that he could be ready for a shot in the NHL, though it might be better to have a sample size larger than a month.

In any case, Kadri was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 Draft and is seeing a few forwards from that draft class play prominent NHL roles already. The first and third picks, the Islanders' John Tavares and Colorado's Matt Duchene, have been at the forefront.

No. 4 pick Evander Kane has moved into a top-six role with the Atlanta Thrashers after sticking, and playing a solid two-way game, as an 18-year-old last year.

The tenth selection, Oilers LW Magnus Paajarvi, has been a solid performer in his first 14 NHL games (2 G, 4 A, -1) but, with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle more highly-touted rookies, there aren't great expectations for Paajarvi to produce.

The 33rd pick in the '09 draft, Ryan O'Reilly, has been NHL-ready from the get-go, but he plays a two-way checking game and isn't counted on to be a primary source of offence for the Avalanche.

New Jersey's Jacob Josefson saw some action with the Devils before getting hurt and Brayden Schenn played with Los Angeles before getting returned to junior.

Late first-rounders Jordan Caron, Marcus Johansson and Kyle Palmieri, as well as second-round tough guy Kyle Clifford, have all played NHL games this season, but none has been an impact performer.

By way of comparison, here are some of the rookies who have been called up in in the last three years after time in the AHL before getting called up that year:

09-10 TOR Tyler Bozak 23 27/37 0.73 20/32 0.63
09-10 LA Scott Parse 25 24/59 0.41 15/14 1.07
09-10 ANA Dan Sexton 22 19/41 0.46 12/13 0.92
09-10 NAS Colin Wilson 20 15/35 0.43 34/40 0.85
09-10 SJ Logan Couture 20 9/25 0.36 53/42 1.26
08-09 ANA Bobby Ryan 21 19/14 1.36 57/64 0.89
08-09 NYI Kyle Okposo 20 39/65 0.60 5/9 0.56
08-09 ANA Andrew Ebbett 25 32/48 0.67 29/28 1.04
08-09 PHI Claude Giroux 20 27/42 0.64 34/33 1.03
08-09 MON Matt D'Agostini 22 21/53 0.40 25/20 1.25
07-08 MON Sergei Kostitsyn 20 27/52 0.52 22/22 1.00
07-08 BOS David Krejci 21 27/56 0.48 28/25 1.12
07-08 VAN Mason Raymond 22 21/49 0.43 17/20 0.85
07-08 PIT Tyler Kennedy 21 19/55 0.35 9/10 0.90
07-08 SJ Devin Setoguchi 20 17/44 0.39 19/23 0.83
07-08 CHI Dave Bolland 21 17/39 0.44 10/16 0.63

Perhaps the most similar player, over the last three seasons, in terms of age and pedigree as a point producer is Claude Giroux, though Kadri has yet to display the kind of sound two-way game that Giroux has developed since graduating from junior hockey. If Kadri had that kind of well-rounded game, it's doubtful he would have started the season in the AHL in the first place.

But even if Kadri is as productive as Giroux was as a rookie, it doesn't look like saviour-type numbers are on the way.

It's asking a lot for Kadri to come in and put up points, and just because the Leafs need a scorer doesn't make Kadri ready to handle that responsibility yet, at the same time, he's also going to have an opportunity that isn't afforded to many rookies and that is playing time, both quantity and quality.

Given the Leafs' offensive struggles, Kadri has to be put in a position to help offensively -- otherwise, there's no point in having him on the roster at this point in his development -- and that means playing him in a top-six role with significant power play time.

He started practicing on the wing with Tyler Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin on Friday, a line that should allow him to create offensive chances.

In my preseason projections, I had Kadri down for 48 points in 78 games and that rate still doesn't seem to be an outrageous expectation now. Since the Leafs have 67 games remaining, that would put Kadri in range for about 40 points this season.

Adjust expectations accordingly.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.

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