The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the real surprises early on in this 2013 season. As fun as it was to badger Leafs fans during the Brian Burke Era, there’s something special about hockey when the Leafs are good.
While they may not be title contenders, it’s pretty clear that they’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. He’s been fantastic in his first true action at the NHL level.
Coming up as a top prospect for the Leafs is among the most difficult things to do in all of professional sports. Constantly under the microscope, many folks had all but given up on Kadri, who was drafted seventh overall by the Maple Leafs back in 2009.
So far, though, Kadri has proven to be worth the wait for the Maple Leafs. He’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, he’s already at 25, with a plus-14 to go along with it.
Prior to Saturday, Kadri had points in seven consecutive games. In those seven games, he had 11 points. Even better, his play in the defensive end of the ice has actually been pretty solid.
It’s taken Kadri much longer than many would have liked to reach, and stick with, the Maple Leafs. But if his play this season is any indication, he was well worth the wait. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up as these games get more physically intense down the stretch.