The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking more and more like a bona fide playoff team. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Leafs are primed to be a participant in the chase for Lord Stanley. While they will not be considered a favorite, everyone knows that when the playoffs begin it is the ultimate sprint where everyone has a chance.
One of the biggest reasons behind Toronto's solid season has been the play of Nazem Kadri. Kadri, the seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft, has had the coming-out party Leaf fans had been hoping for since the talented center was drafted.
Kadri currently leads Toronto in points with 39 points (17 goals and 22 assists) through 36 games (NHL.com). His offense has given Toronto another viable scoring option.
Maybe it is the No. 43 on his sweater that looks like a 93 when he moves across the ice, but something in his offensive game reminds me of former Leaf Doug Gilmour. This is in no way saying that Kadri will be the player Gilmour was, but given his abilities, it is not a stretch to think he could achieve that level of play, especially in the attacking zone.
Besides the obvious similarities of position and shooting (left), Kadri brings an energy to each shift that is reminiscent of Gilmour. Much like the former captain, Kadri is a point producer, whether setting them up or finishing.
Kadri has displayed very good vision on the ice, but what has stood out most for me is his energy and his shot. His shot is not the most powerful, but he places it well and has been consistent in finishing chances.
The skills Kadri has point to a bright future as a top-six center. To reach the plateau that Gilmour attained, Kadri will have to improve on his two-way play and his faceoffs.
Gilmour was one of the best two way forwards in the game. He was physical and was effective on both ends of the ice. Gilmour was also a puck winner in the circle.
Kadri has the tools to be a very good two-way player. For him, it is more the mental aspect of the defensive play that needs improvement. More experience will bring the biggest impact to this as he understands positioning on the NHL level.
Improving his faceoff win percentage will help round out his game. Getting better in this area is a must for him to take the step towards being a No. 1 center.
Kadri may never end up being a player on the level of Gilmour, but he is definitely a big part of the Leafs' plans going forward. With what he has shown this season, it is easy to be reminded of "Killer," and that in itself is a good start.
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