Last season, Nazem Kadri found himself fighting for playing time at the NHL level, with then-Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke as one of his most vocal critics. This season, Kadri continues to reward the faith that new team management has placed in him, and had a hat trick against the New York Islanders Thursday night to help lead the Leafs to an overtime victory. With eight goals and 21 points, Kadri is not only leading Toronto in scoring, but has been performing at almost a point-per-game pace.
Kadri was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft and split the past two seasons between the Maple Leafs and their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. During the lockout, he score eight goals and recorded 26 points in 27 games for the Marlies, earning a shot on the Leafs’ roster when the work stoppage ended. Considering he now has as many goals this season as he did in his first 51 NHL games, it’s safe to say Kadri is finally hitting his stride. The Maple Leafs continue to be one of the surprising stories in the Eastern Conference, as they have collected 13 wins and find themselves sixth in the Eastern Conference standings (despite being fourth in a very deep Northeast Divsion). The contributions the team has gotten for Kadri and fellow youngsters Matt Frattin, Leo Komarov and Mike Kostka as well as the solid play of young netminders Ben Scrivens and James Reimer has this year’s Maple Leafs team threatening to not only make the playoffs but make a deep postseason run.
Kadri beat Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov once in the first period and twice in the second, but it was an overtime goal from captain Dion Phaneuf that sealed the win. James van Riemsdyk, who leads the team with 12 goals, also scored.