The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the real surprises in the early going of the 2013 National Hockey League season. While they may not be title contenders, itâ€™s pretty clear that theyâ€™ll be a playoff team for the first time in almost a decade, as they currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. There are many factors playing into the early success of the Leafs. One of the largest is the emergence of long time prospect Nazem Kadri. Heâ€™s been fantastic in his first true action at the NHL level.
Kadri was the seventh overall selection by the Maple Leafs in 2009 NHL Draft of amateur talent. Hailing from nearby London, Ontario, Kadri has shouldered a lot of pressure to succeed as a top prospect for one of the NHLâ€™s glamour franchises. And the Lebanese-Canadian had thus far seemed to struggle under the pressure, largely being relegated to Torontoâ€™s top minor league for much of the last three seasons.
However, Kadri now appears to be worth the wait for the Maple Leafs. Heâ€™s been an offensive force in Toronto this year, particularly of late. In 51 combined games prior to this year, which spans over three parts of three seasons, Kadri had just 19 points. In 26 games this year, heâ€™s already at 25 points, with a plus-14 to go along with it. Prior to this past weekend, Kadri had points in seven consecutive games. In those seven games, he had 11 points. And he has accompanied that with solid defensive play as well.
It has taken Kadri much longer than he and Maple Leafs brass have liked to reach, and stick with, the Maple Leafs. But if his play this season is any indication, he will indeed prove his pedigree. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up as these games get more physically intense down the stretch. But at least it appears that Kadri will have a solid opportunity to prove himself at the highest level.