Kadri Should Play Wing

Nazem Kadri is ranked fourth overall in points in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

He also has the highest points-per-game average.

It has a nice ring to it when you take into consideration he was eliminated in the second-round by his ex-team, the Kitchener Rangers. Kadri compiled an impressive 9 goals and 27 points in 12 playoff games.

However, that doesn't mean his future in the National Hockey League is solidified. Not even close, actually. Plenty of promising prospects have fell by the wayside and spoiled untapped potential.

Will that be the case with Kadri? I'd bet money it won't be, but any jackass can simply bring up the curious case of Alexander Daigle if they want to argue.

Pertaining to the topic at hand, I'm predicting Kadri will indeed don the Maple Leafs' sweater for the 2010-11 campaign and onward.

As all Leafs fans know, it's not just his offensive flair that makes Kadri such a highly-touted prospect. It's his willingness to throw the body, drop the gloves or kill penalties despite his small frame. He has the heart of the lion, to put it simply, and he's the type of player the Leafs are in desperate need of moving forward.

Of course, an ongoing concern is whether he will add the nessecary weight to withstand the rigors of the NHL. Even if he plays an aggressive game, it's unlikely he'd endure the 82-game schedule without experiencing periods of fatigue. Logic dictates that even if he does add some pounds, it's likely he'd still endure some hardships in his first season in the big league, like most NHL rookies.

And where will this mean little bastard play anyway? Some have him etched in as the secondary center to Tyler Bozak. No question, it's a plausible scenario, but how about playing Kadri on the wing? Strength is an important component to be effective at the center position, and Kadri may struggle in that regard as he matures and adjusts to the NHL.

Not only that, but if GM Brian Burke wants to acquire a big center in the off-season, it would make sense to put Kadri on the wing for a couple of reasons other than what I mentioned above.

Bozak can play center on the second-line and leave the No.1 position to whoever the mystery player may be. Should the Leafs acquire a big center (perhaps via trade by unloading Tomas Kaberle), I think it'd be a perfect scenario for Kadri. He can play with someone who can make room on the ice and let Kadri play his game---which is finesse and speed. As the experience mounts, he can find his comfort zone and slowly begin to match-up against the league's top defensemen. Throwing the 19-year-old in the fire right from the get-go is an unnecessary risk. There's no need to put him on a pedestal at this stage in his development and potentially ruin his career. And this would also work in the Leafs' favor as well. They'd upgrade down the middle and still have Kadri patrolling the opponents end, instead of having two inexperienced players as the centers. Sure, it'd be fun to watch, but there'd be just as many frustrating nights as last season with the youth leading the charge again. And I, for one, do not want to see the Boston Bruins snag a another top-five draftee next year.

If he has another impressive training camp, he will undoubtely find himself on the Leafs' top-six---more because of the fact that it's extremely bare. But that doesn't mean he should be one of the primary scorers and be counted on to put up huge numbers. He needs to gain as much experience as possible and learn how to be effective at the NHL level. Again, as other Leafs bloggers have mentioned, adding some veterans to the mix would help tremendously in this regard.

In Leafs Nation, it's common to place unrealistic expectations on their prospects. But in the case of Kadri, patience is key. He's a potential number one center who can play at both ends of the rink and display a ton of heart. Let's not screw this up by acting like a 13-year-old boy finding a stash of dirty magazines---OK, I'm not quite sure if that made sense, but you catch my drift.

Interesting stats:

In his first three seasons in the OHL, Kadri compiled 118 PIMs. In the 2009-10 season, he racked up 105 PIMs alone.

Kadri has steadily increased his point totals every season in the OHL---from 22, to 65, to 78 to 93 points.

Kadri's OHL playoff points-per-game average is more productive than the likes of Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Bobby Ryan, Matt Duchene and others. Just sayin'.